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Michigan: 'There is no epidemic of autism': support president

Apr 24, 2023, MI News Advocate: Autism diagnoses and awareness on the rise
State health agencies and advocates are providing more resources to address autism spectrum disorder, which is the nation’s fastest-growing developmental disability, he said. That could explain the increased diagnosis of the disorder.

5.4 million Americans have autism and about 50,000 are in Michigan. In 2000, one in every 150 children had autism and by 2018, the rate increased to one in every 44 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is also more awareness of the characteristics of autism….

The health agency serves over 10,000 autistic children through the Michigan Medicaid Program, said Lindsay McLaughlin, director of the agency’s Bureau of Children’s Coordinated Health Policy and Supports….

More screenings and better access to healthcare for younger people can explain the increase in diagnosis, she said.

The bureau is supporting evaluations by reducing wait times for autism spectrum evaluations, providing more training to those doing evaluations and expanding the evaluations network with more clinical partners, McLaughlin said. …

The best advocacy centers on education, respect and the presumption of competence of all persons, said Kathy Johnson, the board president of Autism Support of Michigan.
“There is no ‘epidemic of autism,’” Johnson said. “Instead, what we face is an epidemic of need. The main reason we are finding more autism is simple: Clinicians are getting better at spotting what was always there.”

The state funds the Statewide Autism Resources and Training Project at Grand Valley State University’s Autism Education Center to support those with autism.

It was first funded in 2001 to serve students from preschool up to age 26, according to the project’s director Amy Matthews.

“Our goal is to build the capacity of staff within the schools to support their own students.” Matthews said….

There is a shift to autism acceptance instead of autism awareness, Matthews said.

“People are aware we need to kind of move into acceptance, and really listen to the voices of people with autism,” Matthews said. “We’ve done a lot of things without listening to them.”


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