Autism rates rise among children

By Jessica Hagerty
March 8, 2007

Emily Buerger

Steve Infanti knew his everyday lifestyle would change when he became the father of triplets. He expected perfectly healthy children, as no ailments run in his or his wife’s families.

Eighteen months after the three boys were born, Dominic was diagnosed with autism. It was soon after when Ethan and Cole were diagnosed as well.

Recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that one in every 150 children are diagnosed with autism or a related disorder like Asperger’s syndrome by the age of 8. As of today, the study is the most accurate analysis of the disorder to ever take place in the United States.

Fourteen states were analyzed in the years 2000 and 2002. The study shows that number of autistic children has risen from the one-in-200 estimate made of the 1980s.

There has been much controversy over whether more children are actually developing autism or if the increase is a result in better studies.

Infanti said, “I think autistic children were often classified as ‘shy,’ ‘dumb’ or other names. People are more educated to it now.”

“We know so much more about autism today than we did before. At one point people were saying that bad parenting was a cause,” assistant professor of psychology Dr. Melissa Terlecki said.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, doctors have recently reported that genetics may be linked to autism. However, they cannot prove that this is always the case. Autism is also four times more likely to occur in males than females.

Autism was not hereditary in the Infanti family.

Symptoms for the triplets were similar; delays in communication, missing of developmental benchmarks, lack of gross motor skills and lack of fine motor skills.

Dominic, Ethan and Cole were placed in the middle of the autism spectrum after many rounds of evaluations at West Virginia University and the Capital Area Intermediate Unit.

Many places are working on being more educated on the topic in order to diagnose autism earlier and to help treat patients and families.

“The need for autistic help was just so great. Parents didn’t know how to interact with their child so we knew we had to do something,” co-founder of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research at Texas Tech University Dr. Robin Lock said.

Lock has been running the center for over two years with co-founder Dr. Carol Layton. They acted out on this project as a response to the community.

“Autism can really take a toll on families. It’s not something you can turn off after school; it sticks with the child in every aspect of his or her life,” Layton said. “At Burkhart we help the children with treatments and offer support groups for the families.”

There is no autism center like Burkhart near Infanti but he now has the triplets in speech therapy to help the disorder. He and his wife often network with other autistic parents for help and support. He believes that it is the best way to find many things out, like good dentists and doctors to take autistic children to.

“Having autistic triplets does limit us to what we can do as a family but we make it work,” Infanti said. “I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”

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Jessica Hagerty

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