Learning about Autism: The Challenges Around Finding Proper Information
This week, we tried our hand at learning about autism. To be honest, we really feel for those who are diagnosed with autism or have family members who are diagnosed with autism. Not even just due to the daily complications of living, but around finding the right information. One quick search on Google shows a smattering of information (and many pieces of conflicting information) around autism. There is so much information and misinformation out there about autism that it’s difficult to discern what’s right and what’s wrong, or even which sources to believe. After doing a few days of research, we would like to share some finding which I believe to be factual, due to support from reputable, scientific sources.
The basics of Autism. Autism is the fastest growing and most commonly diagnosed neurological disorder in Canada, with a prevalence increase of ~100% in the last 10 years. It now affects roughly 1 in every 68 children, or 1.5%.
What causes Autism? Not vaccines. Seriously, this is important to get across: Vaccines do not cause autism. In all the information we have found, we believe this is the most crucial to get across, for the well-being of the child, if anything. The number of websites purporting that there is some link between vaccines and autism is astounding. It appears the largest traction of this myth that “Vaccines cause autism” comes from Jenny McCarthy, whose credentials include playmate of the year, 1993. We’re unfamiliar with this scientific title, but apparently it gives one the credit and reputation to make the claim that vaccines cause autism.
The truth is, it started with one study in 1998 where AJ Wakefield saw that 8 children who received the MMR vaccine developed gastrointestinal disorders, which affected the development in the brain, leading to autism. As you can imagine this “study” is incredibly flawed for a variety of reasons. First, the number of subjects being 8. Out of the 50,000 children per month in the UK receiving the MMR vaccine. That’s really all that needs to be said, really. More details can be read in the academic article link, found below under sources.
In the decades following this study, hundreds of thousands of subjects have been studied and there is a firm consensus in the medical and scientific community that vaccines do not cause autism.
Autistic or Asperger’s? In the recent years (2013, to be exact) Asperger’s, which used to be considered a specific subtype of autism, was now classified as part of a broader spectrum of disorders related to autism called “autism spectrum disorder”. Those who would previously have been thought of as having Asperger’s would now be diagnosed as one with high functioning autism (HFA). HFA has many similar symptoms to autism with 2 key differences: HFA tend to have normal or above average IQ (in context of the broad population), and they develop speech at the normal rate. Their difficulty seems to be limited largely to social interactions and are sometimes described as “awkward”.
What we can do to help those with Autism. Due to the growing number of autistic diagnoses, our government offers some benefits to help those with autism. In BC, families can receive up to $22,000 annually for children under age 6 for intervention therapies and services. Unfortunately, after age 6, and until the age of 18, this amount drops down dramatically to $6,000 a year. The good news here is that whichever school that child is attending actually receives extra funding of $18,850 per year for funding of autism services and therapies.
Additionally, those with autism can also qualify for other government benefits, which includes the disability tax credit, and the registered disability savings plan from the federal government, and the provincial disability payments from the provincial government.
More than this however, is the concern for autistic children who are growing into adulthood, when it becomes difficult to depend on their families to take care of them. This is why it helps to set up a good financial plan for an autistic child now, to apply for as many benefits as possible, and to set up a financial plan for the family so we can ensure that later in life, the child is well-taken care of financially. Our one less worry program does just this for families with children who have autism or ASD. These facts, at least, we know to be true.
Geschwind DH (2009). "Advances in autism". Annu Rev Med. 60: 367–80. doi:10.1146/annurev.med.60.053107.121225. PMC 3645857 Freely accessible. PMID 19630577.