Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014


INTERESTINGLY, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in USA says that about 1 percent of the world population today has Autism Spectrum Disorder. The CDC also states that prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 68 births. And according to the website of the Autism Society America, "more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder" (Buescher et al., 2014). The same website indicates that 1 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom has ASD.

I do admire countries that place much effort on having statistical data on the number and prevalence of ASD in their countries. It somehow reflects the concern of the government to put in place policies and programs for the welfare of individuals with ASD, regardless of age, culture and status. In the US, for example, they even know how much money is spent annually on autism services. "Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236-262 billion annually" (Buescher et.al.,2014).

Here in the Philippines, we only have rough estimates of individuals affected with autism, based on the prevalence rates of other countries and on the records of developmental pediatricians. According to Autism Speaks Foundation in Manila, there is roughly one million Filipinos affected with ASD. This group is said to be currently working hard with the Department of Health to come up with an updated prevalence rate of autism in the Philippines.

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Statistical data is important for the government to come up with concrete projects for individuals with autism. Again, in other countries, they are able to come up with budgets for research as well as for facilities that offer basic health and educational services for children and adults with ASD. In the Philippines and in Davao City, health and special education may cost a fortune for the average family. Occupational and speech therapies range from P400 to 500 per hour, much higher than the minimum wage earned by a regular breadwinner. Public and private SPED centers and hospitals with staff trained to handle individuals with autism are scarce.

According to the ASA, cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention. If the government can provide basic health and educational programs for Filipinos with autism, it would be a big help and hope to all the families coping with the challenges of autism.
The big questions are: how many individuals in the Philippines and in Davao City are affected with ASD? How many centers do we need to build? How many therapists and SPED teachers do we need to encourage? How many health professionals do we need to inspire to help individuals with autism?

Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email janeanngonzales@yahoo.com).

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 20, 2014.

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