April was Autism Awareness Month, calling attention to a condition that appears to be on the rise. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism. At the same time, experts have suggested the apparent rise in autism diagnoses may stem from an increasing awareness of the condition and changing diagnostic criteria, according to a 2017 article in the Scientific American.
In a report, the California news site Bakersfield Now noted that several families with autistic children have come forward to share their experiences. "I want them to be happy. I want them to be healthy,” Tammy Reynolds, whose fourteen-year-old son has autism, was quoted as saying of her children in the report. “I want them to become productive, good people.”
Reynolds acknowledged the complexity of autism, describing it as “such a spectrum disorder, there are so many aspects to a different diagnosis that I only know my son.” While the underlying causes of autism remain ambiguous, many scientists believe genetics may be involved.
Karla Martinez, a California-based teacher who works with children with special needs, also noted the mystery of autism, describing it as “a developmental disorder, of course, we don’t quite have it pin pointed what causes it, but we do know it affects the main areas of socialization and communication.”
The report added that in California’s Kern County, over 2,000 cases of autism have already been reported.
Martinez mentioned the insensitivity and lack of understanding she has sometimes encountered from strangers since two of her four children were diagnosed with autism. “The stares are hurtful because they stare at our children not understanding what’s going on,” she was quoted as saying.
Cara Nord, whose four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism at two, shared a similar experience.
“When people see her and they don’t know she has autism and we tell them, then they’re like – really,” Nord said, according to Bakersfield Now.
“I still am a mother at heart,” Martinez was quoted as saying, “and it’s still my children and when we’re out in public and people make a comment and I wish people could just see them as like anybody else.”
The report noted that many resources are available to help parents and family members of children with autism, including the Autism Society of Kern.