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Is there an autism epidemic?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 88 children is now diagnosed with autism. We asked autism experts the question: Is there an autism epidemic? Here is a response from one of our political leaders:

Mike Lake, whose now 17-year-old son, Jaden, has autism, is Conservative MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont:

I’ll leave that question for the scientists to answer. But when you are looking at those numbers I would certainly say that there is a combination. We are doing a better job of recognizing it. So there’s a better job of diagnosis. So that certainly plays into those numbers. But I do believe — and I think if you talk to most families that live with someone with autism — that we would recognize more of it in society as well. So I think you are seeing a combination of the two.

We need to continue with the momentum that we are building. Right now for example in Canada we have some of the best researchers in the world. Talking to Jonathan (Weiss, recently appointed Canadian chair in autism research), I have no reason to believe he won’t be another one of those researchers. There is some phenomenal research going on right now. You see Stephen Scherer in Toronto on the Autism Genome Project, really taking a leadership role worldwide with that. Someone like Lonnie Zwaigenbaum and Susan Bryson. That list is long and it’s getting longer all the time . . .

Then there is the treatment side of things. And of course most of the treatment in this country falls to the provincial level, so a big part of the equation is getting out to the provincial elected officials and first of all educating them on what autism is because I still don’t think everybody understands exactly what it is and what the challenges are . . . (Then) they can make the right decisions in terms of funding for not only treatment for kids, which tends to be a big focus, but recognizing that autism is a lifespan issue. People with autism live just as long as you or I . . . so there are transitions into school, out of school into the work environment. And then housing challenges and what happens with these kids that become adults that become seniors when we’re gone as parents. That’s a question that all parents grapple with.


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The Autism Project

  • Welcome to the Toronto Star's autism blog, a daily amalgam of breaking news stories, features, trends and ideas flowing from our Autism Project. The blog is written by Star reporters: Kate Allen, Andrea Gordon, Laurie Monsebraaten, Kris Rushowy, Leslie Scrivener, and Tanya Talaga.

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