The Los Angeles Times is running a four-part series on autism that’s a must-read for just about every parent, whether or not their kid is on the spectrum. Questions reporter Alan Zarembo has answered so far: why are so many kids diagnosed with some kind of autism spectrum disorder? And what do you do if yours is one of them? (Short answer: Fight. Hard.)
Rates of autism have increased twentyfold in just a generation. Since the year 2000, the number of kids receiving special services following a diagnosis has gone up fivefold, according to the report. Autism is one of those things parents now think about after — and sometimes before — having kids. Is he showing signs? Are we past the point yet?
And what’s causing all this autism? Studies haven’t turned up environmental reasons for the last two decades’ surge in cases. What most are coming to conclude is that it’s a matter of being better able to diagnose autism. But as Zarembo’s series shows, getting a diagnosis isn’t always easy, the diagnosis isn’t always certain. But as a featured mother points out, if your child needs services, the best bet is to get an autism diagnosis. That’s where the funding is currently at. The bad news is that not all families have the means to take on the battle, so who gets the services in California, for example, varies greatly by race and class.
Zarembo has written a number of fascinating pieces about autism for the LA Times. Over the summer he wrote about a town with the highest rate of autism in the world.
The final two installments of the series will run Thursday and Friday and can be read in full online. There are also a number of videos accompanying the series. On Thursday, Zarembo will follow families who are chasing the dream of recovery and on Friday he’ll look for traces of autism in earlier eras, which is sure to be fascinating (who hasn’t thought back on certain kids they went to school with and thought, “Hmmmm, I bet he had autism.”)