Hopefully all of our "class" business is complete and we can get a little more into the actual subject of autism! This is going to be your introduction to autism and then we will discuss the topic further on Wednesday. I know many of you were probably in some of our LINKS presentations in Mrs. Rodger's classes last year, so it may be more review for you. Others of you missed it, so it will be all new to you.
The information that I will be giving you is very important! When people (your relatives, friends, friends parents, etc.) hear that you are learning about autism, this will be some of the stuff that they will ask you about. So pay attention!
As many of you may remember (or found out from the Autism Speaks website on Wednesday), autism has become a lot more prevalent over the past 10 years or so. This chart from the Autism Speaks website shows just how much the numbers have jumped:
If you click on the picture, it will open up so that you are able to actually read it.
Notice that the last numbers that you see are from 2009. If some of you remember correctly our training, the latest numbers are 1 in 88. Those latest number are from 2011, so the latest numbers might be even higher! To put that prevalence into perspective, most of you probably have 200+ friends on Facebook. For every 88 of your friends on Facebook, 1 of them would have autism. 2 friends would have autism if you have 176 friends, and the numbers keep going. That's a lot!
There are many ideas out there as to why the numbers have increased so much. So much about autism cannot be explained but scientists have been making some progress. The following chart is from 2011, so again, the data is a bit old. The information that it is telling us is important for the diagnosis of autism and why the prevalence has spiked. Again, a large portion is unknown, but there seem to be some things that is can tell us.
As you can see, 44% is unexplained. The 27% for the diagnostic substitution is interesting though. It is often said that previously autism was misdiagnosed (or not diagnosed at all!) as something else (such as a cognitive impairment like most of the students in Mrs. Thimm's class) and that now it is finally being correctly diagnosed.
I hear a lot of stories of parents who say "I always knew there was something wrong with me and it wasn't until my child was diagnosed with autism that I realized I have it too!". Of course in most of those cases we are talking about higher functioning autism rather than the more "classical autism" as you would find in my classroom.
The 16% for social influences is also very interesting. This means that because the public (people like your parents or even you) are becoming more aware of autism and have come in contact with someone with autism, the potential for someone else to be diagnosed is heightened. For example, lets say you have two neighbor kids. One has been diagnosed with autism. The other has always acted a bit different but does not currently have a diagnoses. Because the parent of the first child got the diagnosis, there is a greater chance that the other parent will say something like "well, my child does a lot of the same things as our neighbor friend, maybe I should get my child tested to see if they have autism too". This, then, increases the numbers of kids with autism.
The advanced age of parents is a large chunk as well. There are actually a lot of studies that say that older parents (I believe the term "older" means above the age of 40) can cause a lot of different disabilities or syndromes, such as Down Syndrome. With our improving medical science, this actually seems to be decreasing though. Or most older people are no longer trying to have kids.
Geographic clustering is also quite an interesting thing too. (I seem to find all of these statistics interesting!) For some reason certain areas of the country have more people being diagnosed with autism than other areas. There are many ideas as to why this is happening. Maybe it's an environmental issue in the area (Chemicals? Certain foods being offered? Etc.), maybe those doctors are over-diagnosing, or maybe there are just more kids being born in that area. It's hard to say. One interesting article that I read a few weeks ago stated that there are currently 4 cases of kids diagnosed with autism in the Amish community, and those 4 kids were all adopted from a different country or somewhere outside of the Amish community. So what is it that we are being exposed to that kids in the Amish community are not? Fascinating!
Regardless of all of these statistics, there has been a large influx of kids with autism. This is one of the reasons why we have started this class here at JJHS! Within our school district alone, we have 68 students with their primary disability being autism. That's a lot! This is a growing population that eventually will need jobs, places to live, and things to do. Guess who will be working with them, living near them and hanging out with them? You! If we can better train you how to help our students with autism, not only will it help you to understand them in the long-run, but it will also help you to work with and help them! You are (or will be) learning skills that will help a lot of people throughout your whole life.
For your homework please check the "Homework" tab.
You will be asked to visit the Autism Speaks website (www.autismspeaks.org). The rest of your homework is all listed under the "homework" tab.
Finally, I just wanted to say how proud I am of each of you. You all are doing so great. I can tell that your nerves are leaving you and that you are starting to really take ownership with what you are doing. I hope you all are enjoying it. I'm still used to my 1st semester class taking NON-STOP! You all are so quiet right now! It's not a bad thing, I just have to get used to it. But I do hope you all will open up a little and talk a more during class! You make ME nervous when no one talks! :-)
Have a wonderful week!