Autism: A Cause To Stand Up For

What affects more Americans than diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome combined?


Over 2 million Americans fall under the umbrella of brain developmental disorders referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders. ASD creates social and behavioral challenges, which often include repetitive mannerisms. Researchers are yet to identify the cause, but attribute it to a combination of genetic make up and environmental factors.

Every spring, since 1970, the U.S. celebrates National Autism Awareness Month, so before April slips away I wanted to get on board.

Although the exact cause of ASD remains a mystery, what specialists do know is that the numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. The CDC estimates as many as 1 in 88 children or 1 out of every 54 boys and one out of every 252 girls is born with ASD.

Statistics indicate that more than ten million individuals are afflicted worldwide. Five years ago the United Nations declared every April 2nd as World Autism Day. Across the continents, people are encouraging others to stand up for autism to increase awareness and funding for research.

Unfortunately in many parts of the globe, autistic children are institutionalized due to ignorance and lack of early intervention measures and public health programs. The more obvious signs of autism usually emerge between the age of 2 and 3 and behavioral therapies can be most effective the earlier the disorder is diagnosed.

A career change in my teaching role led to work in my school’s learning support department, which coincided with a time when I became more limited by illness and a medical treatment that required minimal light exposure and maximal eye protection. While walking in the shadows, wearing black glasses and gloves, I bump into obstacles. I am forced to see the environment through different parameters too. Working with special kids is a great fit; I am a quirky adult.

Everyone who has ever worked with ASD individuals knows that every step forward in understanding their universe is a move in the right direction for they may not have the capacity to understand ours. To comprehend the world of autism demands infinite patience and persistence, but the rewards are immeasurable.

Please take time to witness the triumph of an Asperger’s boy and basketball. Stand up and raise the roof for autism!

J Mac Greatest Basketball Story Ever

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, social view.


  1. Truly one of the scariest diagnoses a parent could hear. Interesting, though, that it seems Aspergers and Autism have expanded our understanding of the range of “normal” human behavior. The old TV show Boston Legal featured a hugely talented attorney with Aspergers (the actor didn’t have it in real life). But institutionalized? Yikes. Thanks for raising the roof on this condition.

    • Yes, the range of “normal” human behavior…what was once considered odd, may one day be the norm. Researchers have found a high incidence of ASD in the Silicon Valley and some theorists speculate that our brains are being rewired to cope with the future high tech world.

  2. It seems this is being diagnosed more and more. I wonder if it’s because we have a better understanding or because something is happening in the environment? I have a friend with 3 young boys…all with autism. Our prisons are filled with men with Asbergers, not because they’re criminals but because nobody ever “got them”. Thanks Patti…again.

    • Your friend has such a challenge ahead raising 3 young boys with autism. I wish her mountains full of faith, courage and patience. Yes, statistics show that our prisons are filled with a high percentages of adults, not only Aspies, that grew up with undiagnosed learning disabilities. Makes you wonder where they would be today, if they had received appropriate support as children.

    • I was wondering exactly the same thing. I happened to read recently that the chance of getting a child with ASD is higher when the mother is older; perhaps that increases the amount of occurrences.

      And although I definitely know autism and Asperger’s syndrome are something real, I do wonder especially if the milder forms of Asperger’s syndrome are all really that. When you look at the criteria in various tests, these are things that any person might show to a certain degree. At a certain point you may be talking about someone who just happens to behave like someone with a mild form of Asperger’s.

  3. Patty, You’ve done a great job here of shedding light on a very prevalent and devastating condition. So often,years are spent trying to identify the specific diagnosis and its place on the spectrum of behavior issues so that the appropriate treatment can be initiated. I appreciate how you speak to it from your own perspective. Because of your lived experience with physical limitations, you are able to understand and provide a valuable service to these children. They are so fortunate to have you. Thank you for sharing another poignant story and keep up your great work!

    • Thanks Kath for your steadfast support and ever encouraging words. When I think of retiring, which sounds oh so tempting when the Sunday-night-school -blues hit, I will keep your comments in mind.

  4. This is shocking to me: The CDC estimates as many as 1 in 88 children or 1 out of every 54 boys and one out of every 25 girls is born with ASD. Why is this happening?! Thank you, Pat, for raising awareness and for all the good work you do. I admire your courage and and spirit, extending yourself to help others when you’re dealing with serious health issues of your own. I’m sure you’re a much-loved teacher because of your empathy and understanding.

    • Rebecca—as you can see I mucked up on the stat, (girls is one of out 252) probably due to my poor sight for I knew that ASD was much more prevalent in boys. Actually my eyes are okay, but the reaction to shades of light & the difficulty of working in the dark leads to errors. Luckily I learned to laugh at myself long ago because I tend to make one blooper after another. In my understanding experts aren’t sure what causes autism, but researchers are looking into a number of genetic and environmental factors and chances are statistically higher in older moms. Thanks so much for encouraging words. I’ll draw on them on Monday morning when I am back on the front line at the head of the class. ha

  5. The stated statistics are correct for boys but incorrect for girls. Girls are 1 in 252. Autism is nearly 4 times more prevelant in boys.
    Getting the initial diagnosis is like getting punched in the gut. The next step as a parent is to rush out and search for every available service. It is great that there are people like Pat McKinzie make people aware of Autism and making connections with the services that are available. Getting the appropriate support is crucial for every child with Autism. Thank you.

    • Thanks so much Mark for bringing attention to my typo error. Due to my medical treatment I am usually writing in the dark and make mistakes especially when it comes to numbers because even though I was never diagnosed I always felt like I had dyscalculia. The initial diagnosis must indeed be gut wrenching and of course getting an accurate diagnosis as early as possible can only help in finding support. Do you know why it is so much more prevalent in boys? I really appreciate you taking time to write and I will continue to STAND UP for AUTISM.

  6. Pat,
    Thanks for another inspiring and uplifting article (the basketball video had me in tears!). As an Early Childhood educator, I have become more aware of ASD in recent years. Our preschool invited a speaker from the Rockford Autism Project to give a continuing ed presentation last year. I was blown away by the stats, especially the one for boys. We have been in the position of trying to make parents aware of our concerns, with a response that we don’t know what we’re talking about. Luckily there have also been parents who are very proactive, coming to us with their concerns even as the child is just beginning preschool. As you said, with knowledge and patience the outcome definitely improves!

    • The studies show that the earlier the diagnosis and intervention with appropriate support, the more successful the outcome. Your work is so important and I can appreciate your delicate role trying to convey concerns to parents. In some cultures of the students I work with, learning disabilities are not recognized at all. Thanks for writing, Jean, and keep up your great work with the little ones…those formative years are crucial.

  7. I’m always saddened to hear of parents raising children diagnosed with autism—heartbreaking. Let’s hope more research will lead to a cure for this illness.

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