U.S. May Be on the Verge of an 'Autism Tsunami'

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With a growing number of children being diagnosed with autism, the United States is on the verge of an “autism tsunami” that could potentially leave tens of thousands with the condition lacking the treatment they need, especially as they become adults.

That’s the message advocacy group Autism Speaks is emphasizing. They say that presently, 1.5 million people have autism in the U.S., with the majority aged younger than 22 years. And the organization says that projections indicate that figure is set to skyrocket in the coming years.

“The current system we have right now is woefully inadequate,” Angela Lello, director of housing and community living at Autism Speaks, said in a statement. “There are lots of long waiting lists. In some states, it can take as long as 10 years to gain access to [these support] services.”

Even though every state has autism programs funded through Medicaid for people with the condition, the demand for the support services is outpacing the resources available, according to Autism Speaks. More than 50,000 individuals with autism transition into adulthood each year and require assistance including job placement and finding housing, as well as home health aides to help with daily functions.

The situation, however, may improve as President Obama last year signed into law the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act of 2014, which provides $1.5 billion in funding over five years to fund research and identify gaps in support for children and adults with the condition who are leaving programs designed for young people and transitioning into ones for adults.

U.S. May Be on Verge on 'Autism Tsunami'
U.S. May Be on Verge on 'Autism Tsunami'

Autism is on the rise: More than 1.5 million people have the condition in the United States alone. But because the majority of these people are younger than 22, the country is on the verge of an “autism tsunami” that could leave thousands without the support they need as they become adults, according to Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization. 

“The current system we have right now is woefully inadequate,” says Angela Lello, director of housing and community living at Autism Speaks. "There are lots of long waiting lists. In some states, it can take as long as 10 years to gain access to [these support] services."  

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