- A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released Thursday shows one out of 68 kids in the U.S. symptoms of autism. That is a 30 percent increase from just two years ago.
The same study found one in 88 kids showed symptoms in 2008. But now numbers from 2010 show a significant increase.
Pearl Thompson lives in Rhinelander and has two children (Carmen, 3 & Matthew,5) with autism. She believes these new numbers are beginning to reflect the true number of children with autism.
Thompson says the children cause plenty of challenges, but she believes that actually makes their family stronger.
"I think the challenges that we face just make us better parents and kind of help us prepare our children for challenges they may face in the future," Thompson said.
The disorder makes communication more difficult. But Thompson says that challenges make simple progress, like naming colors, even more meaningful.
"All of a sudden he (Matthew) just started naming colors of the cars and we just cried, I mean we bawled."
Nearly one out of 100 kids in Wisconsin show symptoms of autism, according to the CDC report. The report also indicates that boys have nearly five times the chance, (1 out of 66) of having the disorder compared to girls, (1 out of 330) in Wisconsin.
Thompson says the growing number of cases doesn't mean everyone knows or understands the disorder.
"We still get people who say can't you control how to control your kid and it's not that," Thompson said. "It's not that you know they're crying and throwing a fit because they can't have a toy."
Carlene Braatz has worked as an occupational therapist for the School District of Rhinelander for more than two decades. She's seen more autistic kids in her school over the years. But she worries about after they graduate from high school or college.
"What happens then? What happens if you have a nice skill set of educational skills, but you don't have the social skills?" Braatz said.
Braatz says she's seen many students make it out of the educational system and struggle to find work. She also says the state provides a healthy amount of workshops and other job opportunities for those with autism, but that could change as the numbers increase.
Regardless, Thompson stays positive for when her kids are fully grown up.
"I think with the proper support and everything in the state, I think they'll be OK," Thompson said.
If numbers continue to increase, more families will have to hope like Thompson.
If you would like to learn more about autism, Thompson and another Rhinelander mother are holding an "Autism 101" program at Crescent Elementary School in Rhinelander at 3319 Boyce Dr.
The event starts at 6 p.m. on April 14th.
For more information call 915-799-1736
Story By: Adam Fox