1 In 50 Children Has Autism: U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman Responds
03/21/2013 - 11:18
U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman
U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman
U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman

A new and troubling study is out today showing that 1 in 50 American school children are on the autism spectrum. That is a dramatically higher number than the already high numbers of 1 in 88 children that was released in March of last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.

Members of Congress, myself included, need to reflect on the dramatic increase in autism spectrum disorders. Currently, the Autism Society estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism (this figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs).

While so far we do not have scientific breakthroughs to “outgrow” autism, it is treatable -- especially when it is diagnosed early. Early diagnosis followed by therapies can lead to dramatic and exciting positive changes. These can literally make the difference to an individual with autism who otherwise might face a lifetime of dependency, but who can instead lead a life of independence, filled with loving relationships and more. That is why it is so important to diagnose and offer positive supports early.

Parents should look for signs in their children:

Lack of or delay in spoken language 
Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
Little or no eye contact
Lack of interest in peer relationships
Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
Persistent fixation on parts of objects

We need to help support better scientific and medical understanding regarding autism. We also need to work every day to improve opportunities for people who already have Autism to get needed therapies, school supports and transitional services so they can get into jobs and have lives of dignity and respect. I am a proud supporter of many of these measures, and am pleased to know that as President Barack Obama and Israel’s President Shimon Peres are meeting today that they will discuss brain and other science in addition to other critical issues that I also care about.

Autism levels are growing and our government plays a key role in the solutions. But we cannot do it alone. Faith communities – churches, synagogues, mosques and others – need to do more. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) exempts religious institutions, they still ought to ensure they are fully welcoming people, regardless of their physical or mental capabilities, into their places of worship, education and fellowship.

Sadly, approximately 70 percent of Americans with disabilities who are working age are unemployed. This is an area where the government can and must do much more. But religious congregations can also encourage their congregants who are employers to offer unpaid internships to high school students with disabilities so that they can get the real-world practical experience that can help them get a job later. They can hire qualified people with disabilities in their own institutions. They can also encourage their members to volunteer to serve as “job coaches” to help people with a wide range of disabilities to get jobs.

Together public, private, non-profit and faith institutions must do more to help people with disabilities not only survive, but also to thrive.

U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat of California, has served in the House since 1997. Sherman is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as the senior Democrat on the Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.  He is also a senior member of the Financial Services Committee. A tax law specialist and CPA, he is married to Lisa Kaplan Sherman and is the father of three daughters.


 

Comments

Here is what autism really is" autism is a neurodevelopmental and metqbolic disorder, and is not a mental illness. Autism has no place in any DSM. Chikdren with autism suffer from such things as: oxidative stress,immune dysfunction, encephalopathy and inflammatory bowel disease. The children who receive biomedical treatments often get much better. Government health officials, doctors, politicians and the media have failed our children for decades. Obama told us last term that he would be "the autism President. We are still waiting. We don't want any more awareness. When 1 in 31 boys in this country has autism-we are aware. We want autism action and we want it now. Stop the epidemic, heal the already sick children. There is no such thing as a genetic epidemic. Get an independent study of fully vaccinated vs fully unvaccinated children.
Let's stop the lies, stop the drug companies from controlling our health, toss out the drug lobbyists in Congress and heal our children and end this terfrible epidemic that is destroying generations of our children.
Maurine Meleck, SC
grandmotgher to 2 vaccine injured boys

Rep. Berman, it is long past time to be "concerned" and high time to be "alarmed". The diagnostic criteria for autism were changed in 1994. The increases are not attributable to better diagnosis. There simply are more children with autism. Most of them are not merely quirky, they are profoundly disabled and may never be able to live independently. This is not just a "developmental" or "psychiatric" problem, but a complex medical problem, with a growing body of evidence that the condition involves genetics with an environmental trigger and an autoimmune component. Something is CAUSING this epidemic and nobody is listening to the hundreds of thousands of parents who have seen their once-healthy children regress, just as nobody wants to listen to the parents who have embarked on experimental treatments that in some cases have led to recovery. Government's willingness to turn a blind eye to the plight of American children's increasing levels of chronic disease is part of the problem. NIH, HHS, IACC, CDC and FDA have outright refused to do the environmental causation research specifically called for in the Combating Autism Act. They. Don't. Want. To. Find. The. Answers. They are afraid to look. And just when we have insurance companies who cannot turn away those with preexisting conditions, and insurance reform has passed mandating coverage for desperately needed autism services, insurance company lobbyists are supporting the APA in their attempt to redefine autism once again in order to limit those who can qualify for services. Please use your committee membership bully pulpit to force insurers' feet to the fire and make sure they pay their fair share. Encourage public health agencies to follow the science wherever it leads, even if it brings about some inconvenient truths. Maybe when people besides parents have a financial incentive to determine the cause and best treatments for autism, we will be able to have the unbiased scientific inquiry into autism's environmental triggers that so many parents have been rightly demanding.

The autism rate should be more than "troubling" to a member of Congress. It should be terrifying. Something is dramatically impacting the health of our children and no official can tell us why. Autism affects one in every 50 children and that rate includes one in every 31 boys. The rate is based on studying children, since no research has ever found a comparable rate among adults, especially adults with severe autism.

Imagine the impact of over a million autistic children aging out of school and becoming dependent on the taxpayers for their support and care.

Anne Dachel, Age of Autism

My soon to be step-son has autisum and yes there needs to be resorses that parents can get ! the cost is outrages !

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