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Autism Speaks: What is it Saying?

The Michigan Journal
Danya Berri

(Photo courtesy of Autism Speaks U - UM-Dearborn Chapter Facebook)

A new statistic released by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) draws attention to the alarming prevalence of autism in the United States.

As of 2012, 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed with autism. Boys are five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism (1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls). Autism affects more children than diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and Down syndrome combined, and the most unsettling thing is that we do not know why. So what is autism truly saying to us?

As a nation, it is our duty to band together and focus on the problems, facts, and solutions to this issue that directly affects so many of us. It is clear from the rising numbers that many of us have family members that are affected by the disorder and that many of us in the future will have family members/children affected by autism. Better screening methods and broad categorizations of autism only account for a portion of the 78% increase in diagnosis in the last 6 years. The cause of the other portion is largely unknown. Autism has been linked genetically in family trees, but the environmental triggers have yet to be identified and specified. So what can we do? The nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, Autism Speaks, has assembled a national strategy that calls on us all.

What is needed is more research into the genetic and environmental causes of autism. Funds dedicated to more efficient medical treatments for those currently diagnosed. Earlier diagnosis no later than 18 month of age, more trained teachers and therapists, and most importantly, a growing body of educated citizens who can help to integrate those with autism into our community. That is where the collegiate chapter, Autism Speaks U at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, comes into play and where you can help directly.

Early screening is not enough. Once a child is diagnosed with autism, he/she should be raised in a society that can accommodate his or her medical needs and social needs. Autism Speaks U at UM-D strives to assimilate these children and future adults into our university, community, and lives. We also strive to raise money to support research on the causes, prevention, treatments, and a cure for autism. Even with the growing numbers of autism cases in the U.S, insufficient funds are being devoted to autism research each year, $169 million out the 2011 National Institutes of Health budget of $30.5 billion.

The solutions to a national problem can only come with national participation. I urge all to join Autism Speaks U at UM-D in order to put in their greatly needed contribution. April is Autism Awareness month and to honor it, artwork done by local children with autism will be on display on the UC boards. Please come by and see what they have to express and say! Also, during this month, monuments from all over the world will be lit up blue to shine a bright light on autism. To see pictures and read more about Autism Speaks’ Light It Up Blue campaign, visit www.lightitupblue.org.

For more information, questions, or comments, please contact Danya Berri, President of Autism Speaks U at UM-D at dberri9@gmail.com.

To access the full story, click here.

Date: 4/10/2012