Last week new figures were released from The Center for Disease Control, (CDC) citing new autism diagnosis rates of one in every 88 children. This is a 78% increase since the first report in 2007. It is disturbing to see articles citing better detection as the reason for the surge in autism. That’s nearly 1 million U.S. children and teens believed to be given a medical diagnosis of autism. Perhaps we are doing a better job of detecting, but we are doing a lousy job of supporting these individuals.
The rippling effect of supporting the population is crippling, and sadly, families facing the challenges will cite the lack of appropriate support available from a 6-8 month wait to receive a diagnosis, (critically lost time in early intervention) through the public school system struggles to support the population, accessing medical, dental and recreational options, right through transitioning to adulthood, many of which remain at home without support. This is happening to 1 out of every 88 kids, but at least we’re doing a better job at detection? I think we better do more!
What can be done? Locally, there are programs being developed to support social skills, recreation, and special interests. Summer programs such as “Lose The Training Wheels” to teach bike riding, and “Social Skill Education Programs”, allowing inclusive camp opportunities do exist. They are proven effective, but can be costly. Year-long special interest groups such as Science Club, Electronic Kids Club, Girl Power, Exploring Sensations, Sibshops, Lego Buddies, and Music Makers are giving families some options for programs where otherwise there would be none. UNYFEAT has provided some scholarship opportunities. Support groups called “Connections” help parents learn strategies to navigate intricate and confusing special education and Medicaid systems, again which some of the brightest have been denied access. All of these programs I’ve mentioned are being provided through charitable donations and some hard won grants, and all of those funds once spent, need to be replenished or the programs cease. Future goals will include options for young adults and vocational planning, but not without funding.
Initially begun by 4 moms seeking more information in a coffee shop, UNYFEAT.Org now supports nearly 1000 local families, and provides training and conferences to hundreds more including educators, other support organizations, emergency first responders and the community at large. April, Autism Awareness Month is a perfect time to support UNYFEAT initiatives. Make a donation today. Visit WWW.UNYFEAT.Org for ways to give, including support of the annual event to be held April 27th, Seeds of Hope, Growing and Giving Gala. Providing support for those on the spectrum cannot be done alone, and with incidence continuing to rise, your help was never needed more.
Community Relations Director
Upstate NY Families for Effective Autism Treatment (UNYFEAT)