We turned on the Today Show at 7:00am sharp expecting to hear… “Good morning. Today’s top story – new numbers just in. One in eighty-eight children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. What’s behind this frightening epidemic affecting our children?”
But was there a peep about the new CDC autism statistics? Nope. Not a word during the morning teaser about the day’s top stories. Not a word during the first 15 minutes of the show where they covered really important (insert sarcasm here) stories like your odds of winning the upcoming $540M lottery jackpot.
Finally, about 20 minutes into the show, they mentioned the new autism statistics. They had a representative from Autism Speaks and Dr. Nancy Snyderman on to discuss them. The segment lasted only a few minutes. Dr. Nancy went over the obligatory “party line”… the rise in autism is due, in part, to better reporting and broadening the diagnosis (i.e., more disorders are being called autism because of the birth of the “autism spectrum”). We are so sick of hearing about that. Wake up – that’s not what’s going on here. There is a real increase in autism. Even though it’s scary, people need to stop looking the other way or next thing they know, autism will impact them.
Dr. Nancy was surprisingly honest and admitted that we have no idea what causes autism. She said (we’re paraphrasing) “There seems to be environmental triggers for autism and perhaps future research needs to focus on figuring out what those triggers are.” Ya think?
At last, some acknowledgement in the mainstream media that, while there are likely genetic predispositions at play for our children, there is definitely something (or more likely, lots of things) in our environment causing our children to develop autism. Please, God, somebody help us figure out what they are! We parents are out here drowning trying to solve this mystery all by ourselves. Our children are the early warnings for society that something has gone terribly wrong. If we continue to ignore them, we shudder to think what will happen.
The representative from Autism Speaks was quick to clarify that only a very small part of the increase in autism is due to broadening the diagnosis (THANK YOU!). She then said, “There is an autism epidemic and we need to form a national plan to address this health crisis.”
Yes! Yes! Yes! If one in eighty-eight children were getting the chicken pox (something that likely won’t kill them and doesn’t cause lifelong disability) we are almost certain there would be a national plan to address the epidemic! Every time we would turn on the tv, we’d be hearing about the epidemic and how we can all work together to eradicate it. WHY ISN’T THIS HAPPENING FOR AUTISM? Think about when there’s been a flu outbreak or even a possible flu outbreak. It gets so much more media coverage than autism. Everyone talks about it. Why not autism? We just don’t get it.
Geraldine Dawson (from Autism Speaks) then made three critical points about what the national plan for autism needs to include:
- More research on the causes of autism and how to treat it
- Better diagnosis earlier (so that there is more early intervention)
- What to do with the rising number of adults with autism; how can we make them productive members of society?
While this was a good segment on the increase of autism, we don’t understand why it’s not the top news story of the day. Will these new statistics get autism the attention it deserves? Sadly, we doubt it.
What do the numbers have to be for people to care? One in ten? Does that warrant attention? Does the President or some Hollywood icon’s child need to have autism? Would that do it? Do we need a fancy, “Kony 2012” style documentary film about autism to go viral? Would that make people care?
Please world – why won’t you help us?
If you want to watch the Today Show clip for yourself, go to http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/alarming-rise-in-autism-cases-reported/65yaznc