As National Autism Awareness Month 2014 continues, we are greeted with more news about an increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorders. This time, the increase is specific to California public schools. According to a report from the Sacramento Bee, year-over-year autism cases increased by 8% in the state.
Statewide, the number of autistic students rose by 6,100, or 8 percent, to almost 79,000. The number of autistic students statewide has risen by between 5,000 and 7,000 most years for more than a decade. In 2001, there were about 14,000 autistic students in the state.
Anytime I see reports of an increase in autism diagnoses, cases, etc, I come back to the question, “What causes autism?” I’m not a clinician or a professional researcher; instead I’m just a mom with an information addiction that likes to share my opinion with anyone that will listen.
My answer to the question remains the same, “who knows?” I have never thought that there was one single cause for autism. In my family, my vote is on genetics. For other families, the answer could be environmental and for others yet, a combination of reasons led to a child developing autism.
It appears that autism professionals and I agree on this point, “A recent University of California study concluded that changes in diagnoses patterns alone cannot explain the rise in the disease. Instead, the study postulated that environmental factors were partially to blame and called for more study of the effects of viruses, pesticides, chemicals and other substances on the development of autism.”
Regardless of what causes autism, the nation is at a point where more needs to be done to meet the needs of these children and prepare to meet their needs as they age out of the school system. An increase in autism cases at age 8 means that in 13 years, we’re going to see an increase in autism cases entering the adult developmental disability system. Right now, that system isn’t prepared to handle that kind of caseload. I only hope that the powers that be read the writing on the wall and start making changes now.