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Greenville, SC: More autism is result of "increased understanding/awareness"

Apr 16, 2023, Greenville (SC) Journal: Autism rates are increasing. Upstate mental health experts weigh in

…According to the report, about 1 in 36 children was identified with autism — which is higher than the rate of 1 in 44 children released in 2021.

While this might come as a shock to some, Megan Trask, a licensed psychologist at Clarity, a Greenville-based nonprofit speech, therapy and learning center, said she wasn’t surprised to learn of this increase.

Trask attributes the rise in the rate of autism to the increased understanding and awareness of the symptoms people with autism may experience. …

“We know that autism is a complex diagnosis and not everyone diagnosed with autism will show exactly the same symptoms,” Trask said. “It seems like the increase in cases that were reported recently may be attributed to clinicians becoming better trained to recognize subtler symptoms of autism and how to recognize symptoms in girls which can present differently than (in) boys.”

Mike Rowley, CEO of Springbrook Autism Behavioral Health, a Travelers Rest-based residential treatment center for children and teens with autism, explained that in the past, autism spectrum disorder was only diagnosed when severe symptoms were more profound in the individual or child.

“I just think we’re doing a better job in identifying (autism) and seeing it for what it is as opposed to what we used to,” Rowley said. “Everybody looks different. In the diagnostic books, they have high-, moderate- and low-functioning autism — which is how they classify it.”…

Children can also receive an evaluation for autism spectrum disorder through their local school system. …

Hogan said the school system works with parents to better serve the students with autism and help them connect to resources and services within the school district and in the community.

This increased rate of autism disorders, however, creates an increased need for treatment and therapy services, said Lisa Lane, co-founder and co-executive director of Project Hope Foundation — a nonprofit offering lifelong autism services such as therapy, education, adult services and community engagement.

“The trend has been upward for quite some time now,” Lane said. “Regardless of where the increase is coming from, as those kids are getting diagnosed, the next thing that needs to happen is that they’re in some services that are going to make a difference for them.”

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