Autism is being diagnosed more than ever, but that has nothing to do with the number of children who actually have autism. It’s confusing.
This is the opening line of a Yahoo study story I read the other day.
The author posits that just because clinicians have been handed a large, autism-shaped hammer, the children of the world look like nails. The diagnosis is on the rise, but the number of kids with the disorder is not.
While I completely agree that we are better at (and in some cases too good) at diagnosing autism, the argument that there are just as many people with autism as there’s always been is counterintuitive.
My question is this:
Where are the all the adults who flap?
When I think back to my youth, and my time before Jake, I remember very few people with autism. I think part of THAT is the tendency for people to “hide” or “restrict” public outings with their loved ones on the spectrum. Just this morning I read a Facebook post Beth responded to citing how frequently parents of kids with autism self-isolate. When Jake was a young boy, it was easier to NOT take him to the store or to the park.
But again, where are the all the adults who flap? Look at the kids today with self-stimming behaviors; rocking, flapping, echolalia, even head-banging. Where are the grown ups who do the same? We know autism isn’t something you grow out of. It’s a neurological disorder hallmarked by improper development of the brain and neural tissues.
Yes, it’s being diagnosed more than ever before. Yes, a percentage of these diagnoses are incorrect. Personal opinion: I think there are lots of sensory processing disorders being attributed to autism. I think a change in societal influences and parenting style changes have led to kids who are more comfortable interacting with media and technology than they are with people. This had led to behavioral issues that are more easily pawned off on AUTISM than they are to tackle head on because we might need to acknowledge that someone or something is wrong.
In a world where we make up trophies so that everybody wins and nobody loses, we all lose some things.
Wow! – got off topic there for a minute.
Bottom line, autism may be the diagnosis-dujour, but to claim that it’s not on the rise is dangerously shortsighted.
The adults who flap are coming – what to do with them is the conversation we should be having; not denying their existence.