Rising autism cases call for serious attention in U.S.

CHICAGO, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) — Being considered as a life-long incurable disorder, autism is spreading like a wildfire, which calls for serious attention from all parties involved, U.S. experts said on Saturday.

Dr. Chun Wong, a practicing physician specializing in the biomedical approach to autism and the treatment of the disease, delivered a speech at the 2009 Autism Seminar held at Governor State University on Saturday.

“Autism has been described as wildfire over the last 30 years, “Wong told Xinhua in an interview.

According to Wong, in the United States, there was one autism case out of 10,000 children in the 1970s and the percentage rose rapidly to one out of 500 in 1999, and further to one out of 150 in 2003. By this year, there is one out of 91.

“So it is a very serious health problem in the United States.”

Karen-McDonoughKaren McDonough, executive director of the Autism Society of Illinois, said: “Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability, affecting an estimated two million Americans and costing 90 billion U.S. dollars annually.”

On how this serious neurological disease affects children’s life, McDonough described it as a spectrum disorder that affects kids differently and children could have different symptoms from different levels of autism.

Some children would suffer to a significant degree that they would not be able to form social relationships, she told Xinhua. “Even though they are very intelligent, it is very difficult for them to find a job to support themselves as an adult.”

Commenting on the awareness of autism, Wong told Xinhua: “Up to last year, people are still jumping around trying to find out what is going on.” “Starting from this year, there will be more awareness, which is very important no matter you have autism kids or not.”

On the possible causes, Wang said, “We don’t really have a lot of research being done because it is just too complicated. It definitely has lots of causes. More researches are leading us away from genetic reasons while pointing more toward the environment factors.”

Autism has become a huge concern for parents who have been putting a lot of pressure on local governments and President Barack Obama.

Wong advised the new parents on how to avoid autism: take really good care of themselves before giving birth.

“They should make sure they don’t pollute their body and the environment they live in. When the kids come, they need to try to take care of their health and don’t abuse your system by jumping into aggressive medical approach,” Wong added.

In McDonough’s opinion, autisim could be the result of a combination of causes. “There are definitely some environment components that play a huge role here. We do know many children who suffer from heavy metal toxicity such as lead, mercury and aluminum, are likely to have autism.”

Regarding the symptoms, she explained, “Usually by the age of three they will show delay in development that usually becomes obvious around 15-18 months. They often don’t have good eye contacts and they do not seek out others and delay in speech.”

Traditionally, children with autism receive behavior and educational therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, according to McDonough.

“However, there are more and more intense medical interventions and biomedical treatments. They also see improvement when they increase their children’s nutritional status,” she noted.

On the prevalence of autism worldwide, McDonough said: “most industrialized countries are seeing a higher increase. Globally, the UK has an even higher rate than the U.S.. Canada is experiencing a high rate as well.”