By now the news of a recent study showing the rate of diagnosis of autism at 1 in 150 should be fairly common knowledge. What isn’t is how alarming this statistic really is.
To put it in perspective, if you add up the annual incidence of all childhood cancer diagnoses, autism exceeds it by a factor of 100.
Autism (and its related disorders) is more common than diabetes, cancer, spina bifida, and all other childhood developmental disorders combined.
I don’t pretend to know for certain what causes it. Maybe it’s better diagnosis, maybe it’s genetics, maybe it’s environmental mercury. Or, more likely, it’s a combination of the three. Who knows, there may be other factors we haven’t ruled out yet.
The point is, something’s happening to a lot of kids today, and so far we have yet to take concrete action. Let’s make 2007 a year of change for autism and related disorders. Let’s make a commitment to keep the pressure on government and medicine to 1) isolate the cause(s), 2) find a truly effective treatment, and 3) reverse the trend.
This is more than a public health issue. I believe it’s a national security issue. We cannot expect to survive as a prosperous, advanced nation without taking definitive action to solve this problem.