Autism can be a frightening diagnosis, and many parents become fearful when they hear that their child may have the condition. Over the past few decades, autism rates have risen significantly, and there is no clear consensus on what has caused the dramatic increase in autistic children. One suggestion is that doctors are simply more willing to diagnose autism than they were in the past. Under this idea, the rate of autism hasn’t really increased, but there are millions of adults with autism who have not been properly diagnosed and who might live their entire lives unaware that they had the condition.
A darker and more serious accusation relates the rise in autism to the use of vaccines. A discredited study published decades ago by Andrew Wakefield, and later retracted because it lacked sufficient support to justify its claims, argued that mercury in vaccines was linked to a diagnosis of autism. Wakefield later lost his medical license as a result of his false claims. The problem with this theory is that mercury was removed from nearly all vaccines decades ago, yet the rate of autism has continued to grow, even among children who have never had a mercury-laced vaccine. So popular is the vaccine-autism theory that prominent figures like Pres. Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. have voiced support for the idea.
“People that work for me, just the other day, 2 years old, beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic,” Trump said during a presidential debate.
While experts have almost unanimously debunked the alleged connection between vaccines and autism, popular support for the idea continues to grow. The results have been devastating. With vaccination rates falling, children are contracting deadly diseases at a higher rate than in the past, and they are dying.
Meanwhile, the lack of vaccinations has done nothing to change the prevalence of autism, which remains relatively constant at a rate of 1-2 affected individuals per 1,000 people worldwide. In the United States, rates are higher, with an estimated 1.5% of children experiencing the condition, amounting to around 200,000 new diagnoses each year.
The current numbers are not always directly comparable to historic autism rates because in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association combined four separate historical diagnoses—autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified—into a single spectrum, the Autism Spectrum.
The large number of people living with autism, means awareness campaigns have proliferated. “Autism Speaks” is one of the largest awareness organizations in the world, and it raises funds to help pursue autism research, as well as connecting sufferers and their families to resources that can help. The organization also conducts initiatives and advocates for autistic people at the local, state, and federal levels. These lobbying efforts have been notable in terms of create an impetus in state legislatures to provide greater resources for research into autism and how it might be combatted.
The result of autism awareness efforts has been, well, awareness. Today, it is easier than ever to find information about autism and to work to help find effective treatments. Currently, a blue ribbon featuring a puzzle-piece motif is a widely accepted symbol of autism awareness, and there is an Autism Awareness Day each April 2 to help draw greater attention to the challenges of living with autism. April is also Autism Awareness Month, a time to help raises awareness by getting the media interested in covering autism-related stories so that greater numbers of people can be exposed to the necessary information to get their children diagnosed and in treatment, if necessary.
Since the modern autism awareness campaign launched more than a decade ago, awareness has increased markedly. Today, most parents are now aware of autism, and children are being tested for the condition at record numbers. The result is that children who do have autism will be in treatment sooner and as a result of these interventions will have a better chance of developing successful strategies to learn how to best manage their unique needs.
By Linda Myers, CheapWritingHelp.com Affordable Essay Service