by: Diana Davis Updated:
ATLANTA - Activists believe shocking new numbers on autism should be a call to action.
Atlanta parents of children with autism told Channel 2's Diana Davis they hope the revelation from the CDC will mean more help for families.
Fourteen-year-old Luke Fisher has a severe case of autism. He functions at the level of a toddler. As he is unable to speak, he communicates only a few of his wants and needs with sign language. Fisher’s mother, Melanie, said his diagnosis at age 2 was a crushing blow.
“You have so many dreams for your child,” she said. “You grieve those things.”
The new CDC data shows more families are dealing with autism and related disorders than previously believed. A few years ago, the estimate was one in 110 children were affected.
The director of Alanta’s Marcus Center, the largest autism center in the United States, told Davis the numbers are alarming but not a surprise. He said 1,700 children are on the center’s waiting list for treatment.
“The demand for these services in insatiable, so I hope what happens with this study is that it’s used as a call to action to help raise the level of funding,” Don Mueller said.
The cause of autism remains unclear. Experts say early diagnosis and treatment is critical. Some of the increased numbers may be due to better diagnoses.
“The earlier we get them, the more we can do. It’s just really important we identify these children early to get them the services they need,” Mueller said.
Jeff Chiusano has a 9-year-old son with autism and said early treatment made all the difference. But getting and paying for care is tough. Only 29 states require insurance coverage for autism, and Georgia isn't one of them.
“I do hope Georgia gets there. We wouldn’t do this if it was childhood cancer, if it was diabetes or it was any other number of medical conditions. But with autism, for whatever reason, that’s where we are,” Chiusano said.
The new CDC study is the most comprehensive one ever done in the United States. Activists hope it will show autism is a public health emergency that needs immediate attention.
For more information on autism, please visit www.cdc.gov.