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Monday, August 9, 2010

Autism in Texas

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Unfortunately, the number of ASD cases is soaring. Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say almost 1 percent of children have autism or another ASD. Diagnoses in Texas increased 400 percent in the past 10 years, a trend that has officials searching for ways to teach affected students – and pay for it with the state facing a budget shortfall of up to $18 billion.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people with developmental disabilities in Texas spend years waiting for assistance.

"We're at 300-and-something now," said [autism mom Shanel] Tarrant-Simone, "and we've been on the list for five years."

Boatright said it takes about eight years on average to get to the top of an assistance list, depending where you live in Texas.

Dr. Catherine Karni, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and medical director of the outpatient clinic at Children's Medical Center Dallas, said some of the increase can be explained by a broader definition of the autism spectrum, which includes Asperger's syndrome, Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.

"So you have severely autistic children and others with something that doesn't show the full symptoms of autism," Karni said. "You have more people."

More awareness of autism and better diagnostic tools also increase the numbers.

"But most likely, there is an increase in prevalence. We don't know how much, or why. We believe there is a genetic component – all the research points to that, and this tends to aggregate in families," she said.