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Giuliana Hejtmanek

Mr. Williams
Honors American Literature
February 21, 2015

ASD on the Rise
Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, describes a range of complex neurodevelopmental
disabilities that share many characteristics, but range in severity. These characteristics include
“social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped
patterns of behavior” (“Autism Fact Sheet”). There are five disorders that fall on the autism
spectrum; arranged by order of severity, these are- Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive
Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Autistic Disorder, Rett
Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD). ASD is often linked with several
other mental disorders/disabilities, such as anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD), and depression. In more severe cases, epilepsy and mental retardation are
likely to occur ("ASD Symptoms"). There is currently no known cure for ASD, only expensive
treatments and medications for the other mental disabilities often linked with it.
ASD has recently become a topic of concern due to its rapidly increasing prevalence in
our society. According to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF), ASD is currently
the most rapidly increasing developmental disorder in the United States. Although the reason for
this is commonly attributed to the definition of autism becoming more diverse and including
other disorders, there are other unknown factors that play a large role ASD’s increasing
prevalence. In her 2006 medical journal, Catherine Rice mentions that “before the 1980s, the

term "autism" was used primarily to refer to autistic disorder and was thought to be rare,
affecting approximately one in every 2,000 children”. In the 1990s, after a new diagnostic
criteria - including all current disorders on the autism spectrum - became the standard way
diagnosing ASD, that number increased to six or seven every thousand. Following this change,
the number of children requiring special services for ASD continued to increase and unveiled a
much higher-than-expected prevalence. In 2000, to accommodate the need for a systematic
public health monitoring of ASD, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) organized the Autism
and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network (Rice). Research conducted
showed a continuous increase in the prevalence of Autism. A study conducted in 2012 by the
Center for Disease Control (CDC) and National Center of Health Statistics (NCHS) revealed that
1 in 50 school aged children fell within the autism spectrum, when in 2007 that number was 1 in
86. That’s an 84% increase in just 5 years. The substantial increase in people afflicted by ASD
are reflected in these numbers. And though public concern has elevated along with the
prevalence, it hasn’t been enough to lessen the impact this disorder has made on its sufferers and
their families. People continue to misinterpret symptoms; they continue delaying proper
treatment. Researchers are relentlessly underrepresented and financially obstructed from their
work. Naïveté of this recently substantial condition have caused the two main obstacles
obstructing our path to the cure - insufficient funding and misdiagnosing. It is critical that the
public be made to understand the risks involving ASD in order to properly deal with this
condition.
Though there are many speculations and theories, the cause of ASD remains unknown.
Studies run on siblings suggest that genetics play a factor in one’s chance of having ASD. Nearly
9 out of 10 times, monozygotic twins will both have ASD. When studying siblings with different

genetic codes, studies have shown that “if one sibling has ASD, the other siblings have 35 times
the normal risk of also developing the disorder” (“Autism Spectrum Disorder”). However, the
origin of these “autistic genes” oftentimes go undiscovered. People diagnosed with ASD
typically “have no reported family history of autism” (“Autism Spectrum Disorder”). For this, it
is theorized that ASD is caused by the mutation of a gene. Still, this theory cannot be proven due
to insufficient evidence. General statistics only derive theories, not certainty. Proper scientific
evidence is necessary proof. Further research needs to be done; tests need to be conducted.
However, mental health research is terribly underfunded, so not enough research has – or can be
– done. Until the cause of ASD is found, a cure cannot be developed.
ASDs hallmark is its debilitating effect on one’s social skills, because of this autistic
children are more likely to experience bullying. This is exceedingly risky for teens who suffer
from Asperger’s syndrome. People with Asperger’s syndrome frequently have high IQs and
exhibit extremely mild autistic symptoms, making this disorder more likely to go undiagnosed.
Along with this, Asperger’s often linked with other mental health issues, such as anxiety and
depression (Tantam and Prestwood). This often leaves it’s sufferers at high risk for suicidal
ideations. “There is not a study to provide empirical numbers, but those working with Aspie
teens are suggesting that 50% of Aspie teens have contemplated or attempted suicide and Aspie
teens are at a 40-50% higher risk of completing suicide than their Neuro-typical counterparts”
(Holmes). Early intervention could eliminate symptoms of social debilitation and prevent social
impairment from interfering with the life of the sufferer and proper psychiatric treatment could
significantly reduce the chance for depression and suicide. For this, it’s imperative that parents
have their children evaluated while they’re young.

Though defined as a lifelong condition, early intervention has been proven to be
beneficial in reversing the symptoms of ASD and has moved many children off of the autism
spectrum (Glicksman). Treatment can start immediately after a proper diagnostic and research
has proven that at 18 months, any child can be accurately diagnosed with ASD (Kleinman). With
all of the risks involved, the importance of having a child treated at the earliest is evident. The
issue, however, is that many people are just simply uninformed. Many parents have never been
taught the importance of psychiatric testing, nor have they been taught to identify early the
symptoms of ASD, so they see no reason to have their children psychologically evaluated until
they see them struggling academically or with their peers. Other parents have been informed and
can easily identify the symptoms associated with ASD, but (often for financial reasons) decide to
wait and see if their child just “grows out of it.” Because of this, children with ASD often go
undiagnosed for many years. This not only often results in several complications throughout the
child’s life, but essentially diminishes the chance of the child gaining full control of the disorder
(Limon).
However, there are also many parents who can identify the symptoms and wish to have
their children diagnosed and treated, but simply cannot afford to. Special education, ASD-related
therapy, family-coordinated services, healthcare, medications, and caregivers for an Autistic
child between the ages of 3 and 17 cost an additional $17,000 to $21,000 annually (Lavelle). The
lifelong cost of supporting an individual on the ASD spectrum is estimated to be $2.4 million;
nearly double the cost of supporting an individual without a mental disability (Buescher). These
numbers exclude money lost through unproductivity. To properly care for their autistic children,
many parents have to work less hours and quite their jobs. Additionally, ASD (along with other
disabilities) has shown to significantly reduce the chance for employment. According to the

Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17.3% of the disabled population participating in the labor force,
between the ages of 16 and 65, was employed. The economic burden of ASD is crippling. The
abstrusity of this disability has limited the treatments available, leaving only expensive ones.
Those struggling with autism have many issues to deal with, but there are steps that can
be taken to ameliorate their condition. Producing a remedy would be the ideal solution, but
currently, that’s highly unlikely to happen. The cause of ASD would need to be found to produce
a remedy and until researchers are sufficiently funded, that won’t happen. The first step taken
should be informing the people. To apprise the parents, schools should begin sending home
informative pamphlets, containing facts on several different mental disorders and disabilities.
Pediatricians should encourage parents to have their children evaluated. For those who have
children on the spectrum and are struggling economically, financial aid should be offered. To
inform consumers, television networks should pass informative commercials about ASD, ideally
as a donation (free of cost). To raise money for research and increase awareness of ASD,
nonprofits should begin holding events and fundraisers, similar to Hoops for Heart.
Consequentially, this should increase the donations made to other organizations with similar
goals.
Rapidly elevating public concern typically calls for some type reform. This should
influence government spending, so properly informing the population should substantially
increase funding. This, along with the money donated through nonprofit organizations, should
amass a fortune large enough to sponsor scientists. With sufficient funding, researchers will
finally have the opportunity to run experiments and discover the true causes of ASD. This would
expand options for treatment, subsequently offering less expensive ones. And with a cause to fix
and the money necessary, the cure for ASD can finally initiate its development.

Works Cited
“About Autism." Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
“Autism Fact Sheet." National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). NIH
Publication, Sept. 2009. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
“Autism Spectrum Disorder." NIMH RSS. National Institute of Mental Health, n.d. Web. 24 Feb.
2015.
“Autism Spectrum Disorders Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatments." WebMD. WebMD, n.d.
Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
Blumberg, Stephen J, et al. "Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum
Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011–2012." National Health Statistics
Reports. 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
Brown, Hannah. "Cancer Research Funding in USA." MOLECULAR ONCOLOGY 1 (2007):
128-30. Print.
Buescher. "Costs of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the United Kingdom and the United
States." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of
Medicine, Aug. 2014. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.
Glicksman, Eve. "Catching Autism Earlier." 43.9 (2012): 56. American Psychological
Association. www.apa.org, Oct. 2012. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Holmes, Stephanie C. "The Growing Concern of Suicide and High Functioning
Autism." American Association of Christian Counselors. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Kleinman, Jamie M. "Diagnostic Stability in Very Young Children with Autism Spectrum
Disorders." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. U.S. National Library of
Medicine, 9 Oct. 2007. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Lavelle. "Economic Burden of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders." National Center for
Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2014. Web. 25 Feb.
2015.
Limon, A. "Importance of early detection in autism spectrum disorders.” National Center for
Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2007. Web. 23 Feb.
2015.
Rice, Catherine. "Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders." Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 2006. Web. 21
Feb. 2015.
“Table A-6. Employment Status of the Civilian Population by Sex, Age, and Disability Status,
Not Seasonally Adjusted." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics, Jan. 2015. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.
Tantam, D. and Prestwood, S. (1999). A Mind of One's Own: A Guide to the Special Difficulties
and Needs of the more able Person with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. 3rd ed. London:
National Autistic Society. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Credible Sources
Rice, Catherine. "Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders." Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 2006. Web. 21
Feb. 2015.
Catherine Rice, PhD, is a developmental psychologist currently working at the CDC’s
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. In 2006, she published the
surveillance report "Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders" for the CDC’s Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report, with the intent of providing updated statistics for the prevalence of
ASD and comparing them with earlier statistics. The author made sure to cite all references. This
report was last updated on December 10, 2009, and is currently only being archived for historic
and reference purposes. In my essay, I referred to Rice’s report when mentioning early statistics
for ASD and changes in diagnostic criteria. So for my purposes, this source was reliable.

Blumberg, Stephen J, et al. "Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum
Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011–2012." National Health Statistics
Reports. 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
The intent of this report was to provide updated numbers in the prevalence of ASD. The
research was conducted and complied by several different scientists working for several different
government funded organizations, such as National Center for Health Statistics, Maternal and
Child Health Bureau, and the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
Information given were a series of statistics and graphic representations of them. All references
were cited. All information on this report is recent.

“Autism Spectrum Disorder." NIMH RSS. National Institute of Mental Health, n.d. Web. 24 Feb.
2015.
The National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH, is a branch of the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services. Its website, http://www.nimh.nih.gov, is a reliable source for
information on all mental health disorders. It offers census statistics, disease/disorder related
Supreme Court rulings, and other credible sources containing further information. It also lists
several ways to get help and free diagnostics, the contact information of all its employees, and
it’s updated regularly.

Kleinman, Jamie M. "Diagnostic Stability in Very Young Children with Autism Spectrum
Disorders." Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. U.S. National Library of
Medicine, 9 Oct. 2007. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Jamie M. Kleinman, was working with the Department of Psychology in the University
of Connecticut when writing this. She has written several articles and contributed to several
different journals regarding Autism such as- The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers: A
Follow-up Study Investigating the Early Detection of Autism Spectrum Disorders,
Differentiating between Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities in
Children Who Failed a Screening Instrument for ASD, Agreement Among Four Diagnostic
Instruments for Autism Spectrum Disorders in Toddlers, and The Role of the Fusiform Face Area
in Social Cognition: Implications for the Pathobiology of Autism. Her articles contain several
statistics, sources fully cited, and conclusions drawn from evidence. She is published in the
National Center for Biotechnology Information, and offers many of her articles for free.

“Autism Fact Sheet." National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). NIH
Publication, Sept. 2009. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders, or NINDS, is a branch of the National
Institute of Health (Government funded). They state that their goal is to “seek fundamental
knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of
neurological disease.” In their 2009 article, “Autism Fact Sheet,” the NINDS states the research
being done about Autism and by whom it is being done. They also offer a variety of different
sources for all Autism needs. NINDS articles are often updated (Autism article updated
November 2014) and they provide several different ways of contacting them for additional
information.