In Canada, October is Autism Awareness Month.
Since October 2006 there have been many important developments in autism awareness. The Autism Knowledge Revolution has picked up steam with almost each new day bringing news of an important new scientific study on the causes of, or potential treatments for, autism. A Unified Autism Theory was advanced. There is a renewed focus on the study and development of bio-medical treatments. The CDC estimate of 1 in 166 persons having an autism disorder which had stood since 2004 was replaced in February 2007 by a prevalence rate of 1 in 150.
The 1 in 150 estimate by the CDC in the US is not necessarily the end of the story. In the UK the generally accepted estimate is 1 in 100. Debates continue to rage, as all debates on autism issues seem to do, over whether the newer prevalence rates actually reflect increases in autism cases, changes in diagnostic criteria and public awareness or some combination of these factors.
At the end of the day though the reality remains that autism specific services are needed in great number. Many autistic children pre-school or school age, require Applied Behavior Analysis intervention as a health treatment and as an educational interventions. And many autistic adults are not capable of living independent lives. SOME require residential care and treatment and some require full institutional care.
These are hard realities that many would rather avoid. We do so at peril, not to ourselves, but to the autistic persons we care about. During Autism Awareness month we should celebrate the joy that our autistic loved ones being to our lives but, if we truly care,we should also help them face the challenges ahead. We must ensure that autism specific services are available for them across the life span.