The long awaited data from the CDC came out today regarding the prevalence of autism in the US. Not surprising the numbers are still increasing, now at one out of every 88 children. This is still lower than some places in Europe or in Korea which came out a year ago with a prevalence of one child in 38. But the bottom line is that we need to look at how we are searching for and then providing intervention to to this population. Right now it is costing us $ 126 BILLION per year to care for individuals in the autism spectrum. With earlier intervention of sufficient quality and quantity we could bring those long term costs down significantly. But it means giving up old dogmas about how things are supposed to work or always have been done, and opening ourselves to the use of strategies that will actually help them. I am not just talking about early childhood, but education, vocational rehab, college, and even employment. Individuals in the autism spectrum are becoming a very important minority population in our society, who can either be productive members or economic drains. It is up to us to be willing to invest in them early so that they can invest in us later.
Talk to your baby’s physician to make sure that an autism screen with the M-CHAT is done at the 18 months exam and any time after that a concern is raised either by parents, childcare providers, or healthcare providers. Some children show more symptoms as they get older, so continued surveillance is important.