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The Next Autism Crisis

Kids with autism spectrum disorder need an immense amount of therapy, and local and national organizations are grappling with how to provide every family with resources and support. At the same time, more families are competing for those limited resources.

The Centers for Disease Control recently upped its estimate of the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders; one in 150 American children will be diagnosed with ASD.

What happens when these kids grow up?

Cathy Pratt, chair of the Autism Society of America, warned a group of researchers, clinicians and parents that autism lasts a lifetime. Speaking at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Seattle today, she said that 65 percent of the people on the spectrum who are out of school are unemployed. The average income of this group is just $6500 a year.

"We have individuals on the spectrum who are living in poverty, who are homeless, who do not have options," she said.

Parents worry about what will happen to their children, who may survive them by 40 or 50 years. There are few transitional services and little employment opportunities even for high-functioning people.

The Combating Autism Act is good legislation, Pratt said, but it wasn't funded. "We don't have the money," she said. "Every state is asking, 'How are we going to fund the need?'"

Pratt called autism an economic and social crisis. Every year, that crisis worsens. While screening is getting better, IMFAR 2007 makes it clear that there's no cure in sight.

For more information and help with ASD, visit