Sunday, April 29, 2007

Where Are All The Adults with Autism?

"If There's No Autism Epidemic, Where are all the Adults with Autism?" is an interesting essay posted by Roy Richard Grinker and Kristina Chew, each of who has a child with autism. The essay suggests that these adults are all around us, in approximately the same 1 in 150 prevalence that the government cites for children. The difference in perception is now that doctors, educators and parents are poised to look for signs of autism where in the past societal norms classified people as mentally retarded or schizophrenic. Here's a brief snippet:

Just because we cannot count adults with autism does not mean that they do not exist; nor does it mean that the prevalence rate for autism in adults must be lower than it is in children. Adults with autism are, in fact, becoming increasingly visible as autism awareness continues to rise and as more and more adults begin to identify themselves as autistic, and speak and write about their experiences of growing up and living with autism. Their invisibility is not a sign that autism is a childhood epidemic, but rather of how different our knowledge of autism is today.

Read the entire essay here.

Each of the writers is an academic, each is the parent of an autistic child, and each has been writing about this experience. Grinker, an anthropologist at George Washington University, this year published Unstrange Minds, about his research into the history of autism and the efforts by parents and doctors in different cultures to help children get treatment. Chew is an assistant professor of classics at St. Peters College in Jersey City, N.J., who writes the Autism Vox blog.


Unknown said...

It seems likely that some of the increase in autism rates is due to greater awareness and to changes in diagnosis criteria. But that does not rule out environmental contributions to the rate increases either. Hopefully the reasons for the rate increase will be answered by evidence basedscientific study not by speculation.

Michael Goldberg said...

Indeed, there's important research going on into what causes autism spectrum disorders, including environmental factors. Thank you for your insightful comment.