We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I have 3 nephews with autism.
Since it's a 'spectrum disorder' the next question you have to ask is "what is the spectrum?"
40 years ago, when I was in high school, autism was barely noticed. The kid with the tic on the bus, or the weird kid who obsessed over trains? They were just weirdos. Now we know they were probably autistic. But back then the disorder was very narrowly defined.
A case in point - good friend of mine has a son. My wife and I (having seen my nephews) noticed some odd behaviors on his part when we visited once. The boy was about 8-10 years old at the time.
Time Magazine had a cover story on autism a few years later. My friend and I, going to a football game, had a conversation about the article and he told me "We had him diagnosed and he's autistic! If not for the article, I'd never have known!"
I didn't say anything, but my wife and I had suspected it for 2-3 years prior.
So the number is growing for 2 reasons:
1. Higher recognition of the traits which go along with autism.
2. An expanding spectrum that has become more inclusive of many types of people.
Case in point - I was in therapy and my doctor told me that he noticed certain traits of mine that could lead to a diagnosis of autism. I'm certainly NOT autistic, or at least if I am, I'm high-functioning. I could have a touch of Asperger's Syndrome, but a very mild one. Asperger's is in the autism spectrum, though.
So there's no 'blame' to be placed on the growing numbers. Doctors know it's a natural progression which occurs when a new diagnosis is laid out, and people begin to recognize it more....and the diagnosis expands to be more inclusive.
50-60 years ago a child with autism couldn't speak, couldn't feed themselves and soiled their underwear even as teens. Everyone else went to school and at 18 had to find their own self sufficiency. Today you will rarely see an autistic child that cannot function at all. All of those kids who had to go to school and find a way to deal with whatever physical or emotional problems they had are no defined on the "autistic scale". THAT is why there seems to be so many more kids with autism.
Even if your child is NOT autistic you have to be careful because the school could label them autistic BECAUSE they get money for it!!! The parents get paid for it!! And a large contingent of hangers on get paid (doctors, tutors, caretakers, lawyers, etc.) EVERYONE wants some of the free stuff that the federal and state governments give out and the magic word is "autism". If you want to see the rate of autism plummet stop giving out free stuff and bales of cash to the schools and special interest groups.
Apologies in advance to anyone who has an autistic child or deals with autistic family members. Yes it is real and it is a terrible thing. But if you are simply unaware that the autism illness is being exploited and in some cases children and families are being unnecessarily damaged THEN you needed to hear it.
In the old days they sent them to institutions and you never saw them again. The less-weird kids, who would now qualify for the diagnosis but were just pushed through school then, did not go on to have successful lives just because everyone forced them to find their own niche.
There used to be a category called "idiot-savant" which included people we would now diagnose as autistic. Lightning calculators, memory-obsessives and the like, who had dramatic abilities but had trouble with overall functioning.
Assistant Village Idiot
A lot of it is the disappearance of the stigma on parents and educators that the diagnosis caused.
When I was growing up, diagnosing a child with autism would brand the parents as bad parents. As a result many parents wouldn't take their child in to be tested, and many psychologists would diagnose children as "retarded" or "socially inapt" rather than "autistic".
Which is exactly what happened with me.
40 years later, the diagnosis was made, finally confirming the suspicion I'd been having for decades.