Thursday, March 29, 2012

Prevalence Rates Press Conference

These remarks come from our UAC President, Mirella Petersen. This morning, the CDC released the new national rate for Autism in the USA. It is now 1 in 88, which is higher than the old rate of 1 in 110. They also released the new rate for the state of Utah. It used to be 1 in 77, the new rate is now 1 in 47. Mirella had this to say at the press conference:

          "Good morning. My name is Mirella Petersen. I am the President of the Utah Autism Coalition. I am an aunt, a cousin and a friend to hundreds of children affected by autism. I am the mother of 3 boys, one of which was diagnosed with autism in January of 2011 at the age of 4. I am humbled today to represent parents throughout the state of Utah who have children living with autism. These parents are truly some of the finest warriors I have ever encountered. As a parent, it is devastating to hear that your child has an autism spectrum disorder. Even more devastating, is to learn that there is a serious lack of access to evidence-based treatments that have been shown to dramatically improve the symptoms of autism – especially for those treated in childhood. But there is so much hope. The message I want to share today is one of hope and urgency.

           I have had the great privilege of working with parents of children with autism from Apple Valley to Lewiston. From Tooele to Heber, and everywhere in between. They are in every county, every city and every neighborhood. We have been fighting to raise awareness and build hope for families affected by autism throughout the state of Utah. When I think of heroes, I picture a single mother in Huntsville raising a child with autism that suffers from such severe sensory issues that he has to be fed through a tube. With great effort, she brought him to multiple meetings with her local legislators to share with them the struggles she gladly endures and the help she so desperately needs. I think of the father in Paragonah, struggling with a teenaged son living with autism, taking time off of work to raise awareness about the need for qualified adult services for his son. I think of the grandparents in Sandy who spent their afternoon making valentines cards for their local representatives to show their support for their grandchildren affected by autism. I picture the family who had sold their car to pay for medical services for their child with autism, but without complaint spent a significant part of their family budget to take a bus across the Salt Lake Valley to meet with their legislators and share their story. These families, their efforts, their unwavering battle to help their children is nothing short of heroic.

          What these parents know, what they live each day is hope. They know that autism is a treatable disorder. With access to the right services, every child with autism can improve and many will live joyful, fulfilling and independent lives. While they are ragged with over-exertion and over-extended physically, emotionally and financially they continue to cling to hope and act with urgency because they know that time is of the essence. They know that their child has talents and abilities that will blow the neurotypical world away, if given the chance. Let’s do our part to give them that chance.

            As I ponder the results of this study today, I am struck with the impression that this is a cry out to all of us to take action now. This a call to action to parents to watch for the signs of autism and have their children tested at the earliest signs of concern. It is a call to action to pediatricians and health care providers to initiate screenings earlier. It is a call to action for our legislators to actively participate in creating tangible solutions for the autism community. It is a call to action for insurance carriers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism. This is a call to action to society to become more aware, to offer a helping hand, to reserve judgment, to show a greater outpouring of compassion, empathy and love toward those individuals affected by autism as well as their siblings and parents. My plea today is for each of us to take action now, in our own sphere of influence, for in that action there is so much hope for the many families and individuals affected by autism. Thank you."