The Arc Reacts to Newest Autism Prevalence Data Showing 30% Increase in Two Years

Washington, DC – Today, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continues to rise.  The new rate of 1 in 68 reflects a 30% increase from two years ago when the CDC released data that 1 in 88 children has autism.

“The numbers are staggering – in 2008, the CDC reported 1 in 125 children had autism and related disorders.  Today’s data showing nearly double the prevalence since then emphasizes the immediate need for better services and supports for people with autism and their families.   Autism is clearly part of the human condition and people with autism live in all of our communities.  While we have made progress in recent years to raise awareness and improve services and supports for individuals with autism, it’s simply not enough.

“From protecting the Medicaid program – the single largest funding source of services and support for people with autism and their families – to reauthorizing the Combating Autism Act before it expires in September, we have a lot work ahead of us on Capitol Hill to ensure that people with ASD are fully included in society and that ASD prevention, surveillance, public education, and professional training continue apace.  And as a grassroots organization with nearly 700 chapters across the country, The Arc will continue to lead the way and work with people with autism to support their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

ASDs are a group of developmental disabilities that are often diagnosed in early childhood and can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges over a lifetime.  The Arc is the largest provider organization for people with autism in the United States. Chapters of The Arc provide services and supports for people with autism, their families, and service providers.

The Arc runs Autism NOW: The National Autism Resource and Information Center, a federally funded resource for people with ASDs and their families.  The online center aims to help people separate fact from fiction when it comes to autism.  In addition, Autism NOW provides trainings and information and referral services.

The Arc is also running a national airport rehearsal program for people with autism, other developmental disabilities, and their families called Wings for Autism.  Based on a program launched by one of our local chapters in Massachusetts responding to the needs of a family looking to take a trip to a theme park, the program is a full dress rehearsal for air travel, including the process of ticketing, security clearance, boarding, and at some locations, taxiing on the runway.

And earlier this year, The Arc announced a new partnership with Specialisterne, a Danish nonprofit, to replicate its successful model for recruiting, assessing, training, placing and supporting people with autism in jobs in the tech industry in the United States.  Specialisterne creates meaningful employment for people with autism by building relationships with technology companies that need employees whose skill sets match the characteristics of many people on the autism spectrum.  Chapters of The Arc are working with Specialisterne to serve tech companies, such as SAP and CAI, which are eager to employ people with autism as software testers, programmers, data quality assurance specialists and other technology positions.

The Arc’s Statement on New CDC Autism Data on Minneapolis Somali Population

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new project findings  on the prevalence rate of 1 in 32 Somali children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Minneapolis.  While the report says that Somali children with ASD are more likely to have cognitive disabilities and more significant disabilities than all other racial groups, the data say that the rate of autism in the Somali population is about the same as in the white population (1 in 32 vs. 1 in 36).  The report also states that children who have autism aren’t identified as early as they could be.

“This new data from the CDC indicate potentially higher rates of autism spectrum disorders in distinct populations than the national numbers, clearly show that more research is needed to better understand autism, and again makes the case that additional funds must be made available for services and supports for children with autism and their families.

“The CDC continues to do important work in this area, shining a bright light on what families associated with The Arc and our chapters experience everyday – autism spectrum disorders touch so many people, of all cultures and backgrounds, and we must do more to support them to achieve their goals and to foster an inclusive society.  The Arc is committed to families of all backgrounds in our efforts to serve and support people with disabilities, through our network of 700 chapters across the country,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

“About a third of individuals and families using advocacy services from The Arc Greater Twin Cities are from multicultural families,” said Kim Keprios, The Arc Greater Twin Cities’ chief executive officer.  “We have been working hard to make connections in the Somali community because we know Somali children who have autism are not being diagnosed as early as they could be and therefore not getting critical services. Anyone who might benefit from The Arc’s assistance in getting a diagnosis, receiving help with special education issues and more, is encouraged to call us at 952-920-0855 or visit www.arcgreatertwincities.org.”

“These data provide further evidence of the need for organizations like The Arc to continue advocating for policies and funding to ensure the needs of children with ASD and their families are being met,” said Steve Larson, senior policy director for The Arc Minnesota, the state office of The Arc in Minnesota.  “We were pleased that state elected officials approved new funding in 2013 to help children with ASD improve their communication skills and increase their inclusion in their communities, and we strongly supported passage of legislation this year requiring health insurance plans to cover needed behavior therapies for these children.  We will continue to work to make further progress in serving all Minnesotans diagnosed with ASD.”

Amy Hewitt, director of the University of Minnesota Research and Training Center on Community Living and primary investigator on the project, is also a member of the board of directors of both The Arc Minnesota and The Arc Greater Twin Cities.