Sunday, April 1, 2018

Autism by Numbers

Today, the first of April, begins another Autism Awareness Month. Despite rising numbers of children being diagnosed with autism and increasing costs of caring for people with autism, little progress is being made to find a cure. Although Alex is more skilled with data and numbers than I am, I have found eye-opening statistics that provide true autism awareness.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Data & Statistics:

Approximately 1 in 68 children, or 1.5%, in the United States had autism, based on 2012 data.

ASD was 4.5 times more common in boys (1 in 42) than in girls (1 in 189), according to 2012 data.

[According to the 2016 National Health Center for Health Statistics: 1 in 36 children, or 2.24%, had autism, including 1 in 28 boys with autism.]

Autism occurs in all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups, according to 2010 data.

The average prevalence of autism in Asia, Europe, and North America was 1-2% of the population, based upon data collected between 1966 and 2016.

The total cost per year for children with autism in the United States in 2011 was estimated to be $11.5-60.9 billion. These costs include medical care, special education, and lost parental productivity, that is, parents who must quit their jobs or work fewer hours in order to care for their children with autism.

The average annual Medicaid costs in 2005 for children with autism were $10,709 per child, which were six times higher than the average annual Medicaid costs for children without autism at $1812.

The average annual medical expenses in 2007 for privately insured children with autism were $4,110-6,200 higher than annual costs for children without ASD.

Intensive behavioral interventions for children with autism cost $40,000-60,000 per child per year in 2011.

According to the research article, “Costs of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the United Kingdom and the United States,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics on August 2014 by Buescher et al:

The cost of supporting a person in the United States with autism and intellectual disability during his or her lifetime is $2.4 million. If a person has autism but does not have an intellectual disability, the cost is $1.4 million over a lifetime.

The largest costs for children with autism include special education and parental productivity loss. However, the largest costs for adults with autism include residential care/supported living accommodations and individual productivity loss since many people with autism cannot find employment. In addition, medical costs are much higher for adults with autism than for children with autism.

The cost of supporting children with autism in the United States is $61-66 billion per year; the cost of supporting adults with autism in the U.S. is $175-196 billion per year.

In the United States, the cost breakdown for people with autism includes 79% for services, 12% for the productivity costs for the individuals with autism, and 9% for the caregiver time costs.

According to the article, “Economic Burden of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders,” published in Pediatrics on February 2014 by Lavelle et al:

Educating a child with autism costs approximately $8610 more than a typical child each year.

According to Talk About Curing Autism’s website:

Of the National Institutes of Health’s 2011 $30.5 billion budget, only 0.6% was allocated to funding autism research. Despite the increasing prevalence of autism spectrum disorders, autism receives significantly less funding than other childhood conditions, such as muscular dystrophy, juvenile diabetes, leukemia, and pediatric AIDS.

Although today may be April Fool’s Day, this is no joke. We must stop this autism epidemic and find ways to help the children and adults dealing with the obstacles this condition places upon their lives every single day. Perhaps those who are unmoved by the day-to-day struggles people with autism and their families face may realize that staggering economic costs will overwhelm federal and state budgets unless a cure is found. Our country cannot afford the financial and personal costs autism places upon this nation.

Whenever I feel frustrated, wondering how such an insurmountable problem can be solved, I remember that God is not overwhelmed by the number of people with autism or the costs of caring for them or the lack of funds being spent to find a cure for autism. A plaque on my desk reminds me of God’s ability to solve any problem: “Today God is able to do more than I can ask or imagine.”

Alex never doubts that God will take care of him because he believes in the Resurrection that we as Christians celebrate today on Easter. Yesterday, when Ed asked him to name the best thing about Easter, without hesitation, Alex replied, “It’s when Jesus came back to life.” That same God who resurrected Christ can bring healing and hope to those with autism and their families, for through the struggles, our children bring glory to God.

“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ‘Rabbi,' his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’

‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.’” John 9:1-3

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