Pause for World Autism Awareness Day

Today is World Autism Awareness Day and it would be great if people could educate themselves about this affliction. Take a moment and look it up. It’s quite possible, even likely, that you know or will know a child with autism.

Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years. Careful research shows that this increase is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States (from http://www.autismspeaks.org/).

My interest in autism—what it means and what can be done about it—comes from a very dear friend whose son was diagnosed with Asperger’s (a form of autism) four years ago yesterday. The thing is, there should be absolutely no stigma about it. The 7-year old is a wonderful, brilliant, playful young man who has some struggles. In fact, just this past weekend I visited the family and went kite flying.

More needs to be done for autism research. Just today there was a move in that direction. President Obama announced a $100 million initiative to study the brain. The hope is it will lead to better treatments and even cures for autism or other afflictions such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.

So take a moment if you have it and recognize World Autism Awareness Day.