Autism awareness: Going from bad to worse

dennis-brown-ii-at-waam-am-copyBy DENNIS A. BROWN II

(In 2016 I wrote how more children were being diagnosed with autism.  A new method reveals how that is true. Plus you might be outraged about how much is spent on autism research compared to other ailments and on therapy.)

In a prior editorial, a 2014 survey revealed that 1 in 45 children in the United States between 3 and 17 was diagnosed with autism.

That particular survey was from an analysis of school and medical records of 8-year-old children. About 12,000 parents were interviewed by the National Center for Health Statistics and focused on the health and disabilities of randomly selected children. The overall rate supposedly remained steady at 1 in 68 from 2014 to 2016. But a new method reveals a different story.

Dr. Robert W. Sears, a pediatrician from Dana Point, Calif., and author of “The Autism Book: What Every Parent Needs To Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery and Prevention,” says the Centers for Disease Control revealed a new method that gives a quicker look at the rate of children being diagnosed with autism. The National Health Interview Survey provides a rate based on a series of topics that’s later calculated to provide the updated findings. The findings revealed a slight increase in 2015 with 1 in 43. It climbed to 1 in 36 in 2016, an overall increase of 78.3 percent since 2000.

It breaks down as 1 in 28 for boys and 1 in 80 for girls. The reason behind the new method is that the old method would take eight years of research and two years to release the data. The child with autism would be 10 years old when that new data is presented. Eleven states participated in the survey which was then inferred by extending the data throughout United States. It can also attributed to growing awareness.

Autism is supposedly the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States. A Jan. 29, 2017, story from “Talk About Curing Autism” says that about 100 people are diagnosed with it every day. But here are more figures that might be considered outrageous:

The Center for Autism Research & Translation from University of California-Irvine reports that in 2012 out of over $16.5 billion in funding, autism research receives only $79 million. One in 500 is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and it receives $156 million. One in 100,000 suffers from muscular dystrophy and it receives $162 million. Leukemia affects one in 2,000 and that receives $270 million. The largest amount of funding went to pediatric AIDS with $394 million even though it affects one in 300.

The National Institutes of Health Funds Allocation says that out of the $30.5 billion in the 2011 budget, autism research receives only $169 million. The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee reports that from 2008 to 2015, over $2.5 billion was spent on research, which averages to nearly $317 million per year. In 2016 and 2017, spending was projected to be between $355 million and $452 million. From 2018 to 2020, depending on the rate of increase, the projected spending would range from $381 million to $685 million.

Since 2008, 46 states have enacted legislation mandating insurance coverage for autism therapy. Thirty of them, including Michigan, have an age or a monetary limit on coverage. Michigan Senate Bill 415, for example, has this breakdown: $50,000 per year for infancy through age 6, $40,000 per year for ages 7 through 12, and $30,000 per year for ages 13 through 18.

If children are more prevalent to being diagnosed with autism, why haven’t the medical communities focused primarily on it? Why is more funding going to problems that are less prevalent? Why is there a cap on insurance coverage for a problem that stays with somebody throughout adulthood and is expected to worsen within the next 10 to 15 years?

The numbers speak for themselves. If autism is the fastest growing developmental disability, there needs to be more funding for research. The medical communities should focus on problems where people are more prevalent to being diagnosed with it. The caps on coverage for autism therapy should be eliminated so that children and adults who are diagnosed with autism receive adequate assistance.

(Dennis A. Brown II is originally from Louisville, Ky., and currently lives in Dearborn. He currently is a junior clerk in the Treasurer’s Office for the city of Melvindale. He was diagnosed with autism at 17 and with severe Asperger’s syndrome at 35. He is a former radio broadcaster and volunteers his time and effort by writing, recording, and producing a series of public service announcements about autism awareness for non-commercial radio stations.)