New CDC figures on autism ‘no surprise’ to RVA mother, advocates

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New numbers released from the CDC show autism may be more common than we previously thought. 

Now, one in 59 children have been diagnosed. That’s a more than 13 percent increase from the last report two years ago, that estimated one in 68.

“The spike in autism prevalence doesn’t really surprise me because in our home it’s 3 out of 3,” said Kathryn Fletcher. 

The Midlothian mom has three boys, Matthew, Wesley and Henry, all living on the autism spectrum. 

“They’re 10, 7 and 4. They were diagnosed around the time that they were three to four years old,” Fletcher said. 

Her youngest, Henry, was just diagnosed with autism, like his big brothers. The energetic little guy loves running around, but mom Kathryn noticed something was different with him, and his brothers when they were about 16 months old. 

“They really stopped interacting with us. They stopped playing those games like ‘Paddy Cake’ or ‘Ring Around the Rosie’ that most toddler’s love,” Fletcher added. “They showed a real lack of interested and started showing a lot of repetitive movements. In Henry’s case, he would start to walk on tip toes in a square around the room over and over again.”

Those are a few of the many signs detailed in the latest CDC report. 11 communities were surveyed with more than 325,000 8-year-old children. The data also found that autism diagnoses were higher among boys (26.6 per 1,000) compared to girls (6.6 per 1,000). 

Ann Flippin, the Executive Director of the Autism Society Central Virginia, says while researchers are still trying to find the cause of autism, the organization is working to get resources for people already diagnosed. 

“More and more families reach out to us every day for much-needed services and support, so it doesn’t surprise us that there’s more and more families being diagnosed,” Flippin added.

The organization helps families get referrals for speech, occupational and ABA therapy. Flippin says early diagnosis is key to helping people living with autism engage with the community. 

“Providing them with much-needed support, whether it’s social groups, recreational activities, and information,” she said.

Fletcher says early diagnosis was key to helping her family get therapy for the boys, giving them assistance to do everyday things like go out to a restaurant. 

“What most families take for granted as a normal life. I mean us going out to dinner can be a carefully orchestrated event,” she said. “But we still do it because it is important to me and to others that my kids be out in the community and get the supports that they need.”

Sometimes when she, her husband Gary, and the boys go out, they get looks from other families. She hopes other parents can talk to their kids about what autism is and why it’s important to be kind to everyone. 

“Show your kids kindness and how to include others because even though my kids act differently and sound differently, they want what neurotypical kids want, and that’s to be included and to have friends and to enjoy time outside and running around,” she said laughing, as little Henry played. 

Click here to learn more about the signs of autism. 

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