Wednesday is World Autism Awareness Day, and there are more people living with an autism diagnosis than have ever before been recognized. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found one in every 68 children diagnosed with the disorder. The CDC and doctors say the startling rise in diagnosis — up from one in 88 children in 2008 — most likely reflects more awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
With the 30 percent rise in diagnosis in just two years, autism is increasingly being recognized as a public health crisis. "But if it’s a public health crisis then we need to do more," Dr. Cecelia McCarton, founder and CEO of the McCarton Center for Developmental Pediatrics in New York, told TODAY. "That’s really the problem. We have to do more in terms of identifying the children and give them interventions, the proper therapies that they need.”
On Facebook, Dr. McCarton answered questions about current treatments and resources for children and adults living with autism. Here are some highlights from that discussion:
Q: Where do you find programs for Asperger (syndrome) teens for socialization, friends, etc.? —Judy Gunsalus
A: Contact Autism Speaks. They have a listing of referrals for every state. —Dr. McCarton
Q: What are some of the new communication devices available to help with non-verbal autistic kids? —Billie Hall Chain
A: Actually the iPad is one of the best devices being used now in schools to help non-verbal children. There are a number of apps available. There is also a program called Proloquo. Another visual program that's been developed is AutisMate. These are just some of the few of the programs out there that can really help children who are non-verbal. —Dr. McCarton
Q: My son has autism spectrum disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder and recently I was told they believe he has beginning stages of Tourette’s syndrome. The school here in Kentucky is unwilling to work with us very much and I need services. Any ideas? I am at a frustrating loss. —Nichole Gonyea-Reardon
A: Nichole, You have rights under federal law called IDEA. In that law your child is entitled to a free and appropriate education. If his education entails that he needs special services for a disability, your school district is bound by federal law to provide these services. My advice is to immediately consult with a lawyer whose expertise is child advocacy law. The lawyer will advise you of not only all of your rights but mount a case so your child can receive what he needs. —Dr. McCarton
Q:What about all the 30-something "kids" who were not diagnosed and are now not eligible for any help...becoming a large percentage of our homeless population across the country? What is being done for them? —Nancy Szakaly
A: Nancy, you have identified a very unfortunate problem within the world of autism right now. Most resources currently are devoted to the younger child while there is little attention paid to the older individual with autism. There is a growing awareness of this at the federal, state and city level but as with all things it is going to take time to develop the necessary programs to help these individuals. I would contact Autism Speaks, (which) has a whole division that addresses the older population. They have referral sources within the area you live that may be helpful. —Dr. McCarton
To read more questions and answers about autism, view the full discussion on Facebook.