Autism Awareness Month

NAA Says Autism Awareness Month Points out Need for Better Treatments, Research and Services

Autism is a national health emergency, now affecting nearly 1% of America’s children

NIXA, Mo., April 2, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Autism Association (NAA) joins with organizations worldwide in recognizing April as Autism Awareness month.  With one in 110 children now diagnosed with autism, and autism mortality rates doubling that of the general population,(1) NAA is once again calling upon legislators and government health agencies to declare autism a national health emergency. Parents of children diagnosed with autism are asking for more research funding, better services, and wider access to safety equipment including tracking devices.

"If you don’t have a family member affected by autism, chances are you have a friend or neighbor who does," said NAA board chair Lori McIlwain. Citing a 2007 Harvard study(2)putting the lifetime care cost at $3.2 million per individual with autism needing round the clock care, Ms. McIlwain observed, "If we don’t find better treatments and services, it will fall upon taxpayers to address the needs of an overwhelming number of children whose parents will one day be unable to care for them."

NAA points out the following critical areas that need to be addressed on behalf of children and families affected by autism:


  • Genetics alone cannot explain the rise in autism. Proper study into environmental exposures should be a top priority among our government, researchers and Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC).
  • Recent studies(3), (4), (5) indicate an association between the hepatitis B vaccine and brain damage.
  • A new study(6) confirms the relationship between vaccines and autism, stating that "autism is the result of genetic defects and/or inflammation of the brain." The study also points out the implications of the increasing number of vaccines given in a short period of time.
  • Parents have consistently stated that regression in their child occurred following immunizations. Further research on the increased use of vaccines is warranted and should be conducted with significant stakeholder input. Obvious research that has been ignored, such as health outcomes in vaccinated versus non-vaccinated populations must be undertaken.  
  • Certain subgroups may be more susceptible to environmental regression, including those with a family history of autoimmune disorders, premature infants, and children that are ill at the time of vaccination. Researching ways to decrease adverse vaccine reactions while increasing the safety of vaccines benefits the overall health of the general public.


  • Children with autism have underlying medical conditions that often go missed, dismissed or misunderstood. These conditions deserve the full attention of our government health agencies and medical community.
  • Physicians should listen to each caregiver’s account of any medical issues their child with autism may have and not presume all symptoms to be behavioral.
  • Treatment, services and therapies should be available to all individuals with autism. Insurance coverage for co-morbid medical conditions should be mandated nationwide.
  • Studies on children that significantly progressed or completely lost a classic autism diagnosis should be conducted to uncover biological underpinnings.  
  • Clinical studies on promising treatments are necessary.


  • Wandering-related deaths are on the rise among children diagnosed with autism.  So far this year, four children with autism have died from wandering away from safe environments. A wandering prevention protocol should be in the hands of every pediatrician to share with families.
  • School systems are overwhelmed by increased autism rates. Our community is in critical need of additional and properly trained special education personnel.
  • Federal legislation, The Preventing Harmful Restraint & Seclusion in Schools Act, was introduced last year to address rising abuse and unsafe practices within school systems nationwide, but was stalled in Congress, never making it to a vote before the session ended.  Legislation to protect our children should be a priority in the current Congress.  Cameras in special education classrooms are warranted, as well as stiffer penalties for those who abuse schoolchildren.
  • Families are often unable to pay for basic speech and occupational therapies. Government aid is needed for these struggling families.
  • We will soon be faced with a disproportionate number of diagnosed adults in need of housing, job assistance, and lifetime care. Preparation should begin immediately and resources allocated accordingly. 
  • The Combating Autism Act of 2006 will sunset in September. The reauthorization of this legislation is currently being drafted under the leadership of Senator Menendez. Parents and advocates need to contact their legislators and insist that the new legislation will include provisions for desperately needed research and services that will make a difference in the lives of families affected by autism.

"Autism is a national health emergency. Our hope is that the government will finally declare it as such so that proper prevention, treatments and resources will be put in place," says NAA Executive Director Rita Shreffler. "Immediate action is necessary for our community and for the public in general. The numbers are so huge now that autism really does impact each and every one of us."

For more information about autism, visit

1 Mouridsen SE, Bronnum-Hansen H, Rich B, Isager T.Mortality and causes of death in ASD: an update Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark. July 2008

2 Ganz, ML. The lifetime distribution of the incremental societal costs of autism. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2007 April 16. 

3 Hewitson L, Houser LA, et al. Delayed acquisition of neonatal reflexes in newborn primates receiving a thimerosal-containing Hepatitis B vaccine: Influence of gestational age and birth weight. 2009 Oct 2.  Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, United States; Thoughtful House Center for Children, Austin, TX 78746, United States

4 Gallagher, C., Goodman, M. Hepatitis B Triple series vaccine and developmental disability in US children aged 1-9 years. Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, Vol. 90, No. 5, September-October 2008, 997-1008.

5 Gallagher, C., Goodman, M. Vaccination of Male Neonates and Autism. Annals of Epidemiology, Volume 19, Issue 9, Pages  659-659

6 Ratajczak ,HV.Theoretical aspects of autism: causes–a review.Journal of Immunotoxicology, 2011 Jan-Mar;8(1):68-79.

Rita Shreffler (Nixa, MO) 417-818-9030
Wendy Fournier (Portsmouth, RI) 401-835-5828

SOURCE National Autism Association

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