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The Autistic American

By Chris Gagliardi | Staff Writer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC), there is a disorder that affects parts of the brain in about 1 in 59 children nationwide. 

What is this disorder? This disorder is called autism. And how do I know what Autism is? Because this reporter is one among many who was diagnosed at a young age. 

Autism New Jersey reported in 2014 that about 1 in 34 children were diagnosed, which averages to be about three percent. This is the highest concentration in the United States according to Autism New Jersey.

The same organization also reported that about “1 in 6 children in the United States were diagnosed with developmental disabilities from 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities, such as speech and language impairments, to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy and autism.” 

In addition to that, studies in Asia, Europe and North America have identified individuals with ASD with an average prevalence between 1 and 2 percent according to the CDC. Studies also found that ASD is about four times more common among boys than girls. 

There have been times I’ve always been asked, “how do you know so much?” or told, “you’re very intelligent,” or, “you do not look autistic.” These words humble my heart; however, the statistics for autism and its spectrum are quite astounding.

We are always an object of ridicule by society and in some cases, intentional targets of violence.  In the United States, people with disabilities are victims of violent crimes three times more often than people without any.  

The Bureau of Justice statistics do not report separately on autistic victims, but it does note that the victimization rate is especially high among those whose disabilities are cognitive. 

According to the bureau, “Autistic respondents were more than twice as likely to say they had been the victim of rape, and over three times as likely to report unwanted sexual contact.” In other words, people who have autism or are on the autism spectrum are victims of such mistreatment, abuse and beyond. 

A study conducted by the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that “38 percent of the children on the ASD scale experienced bullying over a one-month period, and 28% were frequently bullied. Of those bullied, 69% experienced emotional trauma, 14% feared for their safety, and 8% suffered physical injury.”  

For too long we have suffered in silence. Lately, though, there has been a growing movement towards acceptance, inclusiveness and public awareness of people with autism spectrum disorders. 

Organizations such as Autism New Jersey, Autism Speaks and Heightened Independence are calling for global acceptance of citizens who are on the autism spectrum ever since the critically acclaimed Rain Man opened the door to the word “autism” and it understanding. 

Today, in this very politically charged atmosphere, the urgency is more than ever needed to make sure that anyone on the spectrum is included in the very fabric of our nation to be accepted for who they are and what they can do to contribute to the future of society. This is The Autistic American.  

This is the first in a series of articles on the subject of autism awareness. During the time period, we will be interviewing organizations, families of autistic children or youth who are on the spectrum and political leaders to address issues concerning the rights and more during the full year of this series.

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