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A look at how the understanding of autism has evolved

A child's hands putting together several colored jigsaw pieces, representing the autism spectrum.
A child's hands putting together several colored jigsaw pieces, representing the autism spectrum.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started surveying for Autism in the year 2000.

Over the course of those two decades, the rates of autism diagnoses have jumped from 1 in 150 persons during that first year of surveying to 1 in 44 in the most recent set of data.

This increased rate can be credited to a number of reasons ranging from the actual clinical definition of autism shifting, to how testing for autism has changed. That shift in recent decades also means resources for individuals with autism are shifting and in many ways improving.

Educators can become more specialized in how they may recognize autism in students and in how they adapt to varied learning needs. Employers are better able to place employees who are diagnosed as neurodivergent, or as being on the spectrum.

The term 'spectrum' is an important one to note, as not all individuals with autism face the same diagnoses, or require the same resources.

Increasing numbers of professionals are trying to get away from the use of that phrase, as its meaning has been diluted, and is now often used to describe a person with social tics or awkwardness regardless any true diagnosis, and that can hurt people who actually were diagnosed.

There are those who have been diagnosed using the terms of 'spectrum,' who are non-verbal, those who will require assistance their entire lives, and those who never knew they were autistic until adulthood.

Today on the "Sound of Ideas," we'll spend the full hour learning of the changing perspectives on autism by hearing directly from individuals with autism, some of them in that last category, recently diagnosed.

We also hear how one local organization who mission has gone national, Milestones Autism Resources, has been helping that community for 20 years and is marking that anniversary.

-Ilana Hoffer Skoff, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Milestones
-Carly Millis Jalowiec, Education Assistant, Milestones
-Nathan Morgan, Program Manager: Early Intervention and Autistic Supports, Milestone
-Ilana Hoffer Skoff, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Milestones
-Laurie Cramer, Executive Director, Autism Society of Greater Akron
-Beth Thompson, Program Director, Milestones