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Ed Yeates ReportingThe more researchers look for autism, the more they find it! In major findings released today by the Centers for Disease Control, autism has jumped a staggering 20-fold in 20 years. Even more sobering for us, Utah ranks the third highest among 14 states.
Autism is much more common than we could have ever imagined. That's basically what this latest study shows. Parents of autistic children say the numbers are frightening, but at the same there's a sense of relief, because now they know they are far from alone.
Ten-year-old Ty Anderson looks normal in this picture, but he isn't. As a child with autism, he's aggressive and non-responsive socially. He can't verbalize or control his bowels.
Wil Parry: "Even though I have autism, I am able to draw things very well."
Will Parry also has the disorder, but while he struggles socially, he can verbalize and is extremely creative with art.
Will and Ty's moms and other parents listened today as University of Utah researchers presented the latest findings. Like 13 other states, Utah's autism rate is 20 times higher than 20 years ago. We have the third highest number of case,s and we're the highest with late onset autism.
Catherin Parry, Wil's Mom: "To see that the numbers are one in 79 are staggering and shocking, but it also confirms what I suspected."
Laura Anderson, Ty's Mom: "It broke my heart that there isn't more of an uproar, that there isn't more of an outcry, that people aren't panicked about this."
Doctors Bill McMahon and Judith Zimmerman say the numbers are staggering, in part, because they simply can find and identify more kids with autism. But even then, they say, the pool of yet unidentified kids could push the stats even higher.
William McMahon, M.D., Psychiatry, University of Utah: "This study underestimates it because we didn't meet with children individually. We just looked at existing records. So there are unrecognized cases that we would have missed."
Dr. Judith Zimmerman: "Some families are reluctant to get a diagnosis because insurance companies often have it as an exclusion, which makes it even more difficult to track the prevalence."
Sixty-five percent of autism is most likely linked to genes, but the actual triggers for the remaining 35 percent? Lots of theories, but we still don't know!
The CDC calls it an "urgent public health concern" with more research critically needed.