Last week, I received a press release from our local Easter Seals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just changed the statistic about how often autism occurs.
It is up to 1 in 88 children and 1 in 55 8-year-old boys.
That means a child is more likely to be autistic than develop cancer (1 to 2 in every 10,000). A child is more likely to be autistic than be born with Down Syndrome (1 in every 800 to 1,000 babies), or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (1/2 to 1 1/2 per 1000 live births), or a cleft palate (1 in 1,000).
I do not share these stats to say autism is worse than any of these things happening to a child. I share them to put some perspective on how friggin’ huge “1 in 88” is.
What has caused this insane spike in occurrences? Is it better diagnosis? Is it misdiagnosis? A friend shared with me a story about his son acting “off,” so they took him to get tested for autism. The doc told him, “No, he’s not autistic, he’s just weird.” Is this insane increase in occurrences making parents hyper vigilante and doctors extra likely to slap that label on a kid who’s perhaps just a little quirky?
Or is autism truly an epidemic? It’s said to be caused by environmental and hereditary reasons, so if more people have autism or an autism gene, then more people will birth autistic children, right?
Whatever the facts of the scary stat, the truth remains that research into causes and treatments are paramount. As I’ve done every April since opening shop, I will donate 10 percent of all Jac & Elsie sales to Autism Speaks this month (except those pieces that are already designated for a charity). If you want to help out but don’t feel like shopping, you can donate straight to Autism Speaks, the country’s largest autism science and advocacy group, here.
I’m also debuting some puzzle piece friendship sets this April, and throughout the month, I will donate 20 percent of each of those to Autism Speaks. They are simpler than my other designs — no hot dogs or color clusters, just a pewter puzzle, a pewter initial charm and a single colored bead.
And because I can’t write about autism without sharing at least one Joey anecdote: Last week, Mom told me he went into the basement and brought up some Christmas wrapping paper.
This by far beats last year’s Christmas countdown that started in September.