The latest tallies show that over three million people in North America alone carry some type of autism diagnosis. With this increase the biggest question people are asking is why. Over 20 years ago the incidence was estimated to be 1 in 10,000. Now it's a whopping 1 in 166 according to the U.S. Center for Disease control and is still expected to rise. With the life long care of someone with autism costing approximately 2.2 million per person according to the MIND Institute, we need to start committing proper resources to early intervention now to enable this population to lead fulfilling and productive lives as well as contribute to society
The frustrating point in the above scenario is the lack of interest and resources allocated through government and other agencies towards a solution. This includes actively determining the cause and implementing adequate research towards curative and helpful measures. The US Government will happily spend 1.9 billion dollars for a single Trident nuclear submarine in a fleet of around fifty, yet is only spending 66 million on the entire special education area, which includes special teachers, training and proper equipment and supports.
While hosting an autism conference in Hawaii last month I received a call from a grandmother asking if I could help her thirteen-year-old autistic grandson who was still in diapers. This just shouldn't be happening in this day and age. Whether there is a cure for autism or not, there are programs and interventions that help all children with autism grow up to be productive community citizens especially through early intervention practices as mentioned earlier. This can happen when parents put their own egos aside and recognize very early that their child has autism, accept the diagnosis and get the treatment the child deserves allowing them to use their inborn strengths and talents to live to their fullest.
Methodologies also need to be more visible and understood. Yes there are successful ways to approach autism like Applied Behavioral Analysis, Greenspan, Daily Life Therapy, Miller Method, the SCERTS method and Relationship Development Intervention which may all sound Greek to some, however, most parents just hear of one and go with it. This could be due to the nature of the beast so to speak, in that many parents of children with autism even show signs of autism themselves such as structured, literal thinking. This forces them to have limited beliefs and be less willing to consider other options in a more abstract manner. Many of these methodologies and belief systems have become rigid and unchanging even though many more options are now available and even more are on the horizon.
As to the cause, many speculate that mercury in addition to other heavy metals could be a strong culprit though the proof is not in the pudding yet. Books like "Evidence Of Harm" by David Kirby, a New York Times writer clearly organizes all the facts for others to draw their own conclusion surrounding the issues around immunizations. Perhaps it's in the dental amalgams, the fish we eat or other environmental surroundings.
Then still others are pointing to the gene pool saying it is passed on from one generation to the next. I know in my case, I believe my Aeronautical Engineer father has a high functioning form of autism and I grew up thinking he was "normal". I was therefore attracted to someone who also has many symptoms of autism such as the lack of social skills in certain situations, an egocentric focus, and perseveration (doing the same thing over and over again), especially when it comes to working 7 days a week 12 hour days. And then, there's me. The more I learn about autism, the more I certainly can see signs in myself.
The best, most proven hope of helping children with autism to lead fulfilling and productive lives I know of, is early intervention. Also, many experience reduced symptoms in their children with autism when gluten and casein are removed or reduced from their diets. Other dietary strategies are being successfully implemented such as a modified Atkins type diet or even sugar and milk free diets. Even if it isn't perfect, it's a step in the right direction. Others are having luck by adding vitamins, minerals and glyconutrients back into their systems. Glyconutrients are the sixteen essential sugars missing from our diets due to the poor cultivation processes with our natural fruits and vegetables.
Our Sherwood Park, Alberta based firm, Autism Today is Western Canada's leading provider of autism conferences. Parents, teachers and professionals can go to: www.keystotreasures.com to learn about our upcoming "Keys To The Treasure Chest" conferences and workshops. Upcoming speakers include: Dr. Lori Ernsperger and Nick Martin, March 2005, Stephen Shore, June 2005, Dr. Steven Gutstein, October 2005, and Dr. Temple Grandin, Dec 2005. Autism Today also hosts online education and Tele-classes as well as a broad selection of books, videos and other learning material.
To wrap up, more studies need to be in place to prove the validity of certain hopeful interventions. Parents need to know what options are available to them instead of hopping on the first methodology train that comes along. Through autismtoday.com we are implementing two such programs. The first is an unbiased study for glyconutrients in a predetermined group of children with autism. The second part of the effort involves devoting a portion of our site, which will be geared to offering a way for parents to sample some different methodologies for their children before deciding on a particular approach of treatment for their child.
Karen Simmons, known to many as "The Autism Lady" is the mother of six, one of which as autism, author of "Little Rainman", "The Autism Experience", "Artism", "Surrounded By Miracle's and "Peace of Mind for Autism" (CD). She has been featured in local media as well as Woman's World Magazine, CBC Radio, The Donna Seebo Show and The Vicki Gabreau Show. Also she is the CEO and founder of Autism Today Online Magazine at http://www.autismtoday.com, which is host to the top autism experts in the field today.