Chances are you’ve heard the numbers – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 110 children in the U.S. have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). And if you’ve heard those numbers, you also may have heard the widely referenced statistic that 80 percent of parents of children with an ASD end up getting divorced. However, research presented by our client, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, at the recent 2010 International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia debunked this statistic, finding that autism has no effect on family structure.
So why are these findings important to the autism community? I’ll let you click here to listen to lead study author Dr. Brian Freedman discuss these findings, and provide his research team’s first-hand perspective. So many people – from fellow researchers at the meeting, to outlets including WebMD, Newsweek’s Human Condition Blog, HealthDay, NPR, and the LA Times Booster Shots Blog – expressed interest in this study, because it demonstrates that families don’t have to receive a diagnosis of autism and divorce at the same time, and it underscores how families are resilient when faced with the challenges that raising a child with an ASD may bring.
Having the opportunity to be onsite with Dr. Freedman allowed me to not only help disseminate this message, but learn even more about the extensive work that is being done to accelerate the pace of autism research. From hearing about research on early intervention, to the Autism Science Foundation Science and Sandwiches Lunch where six up-and-coming pre-doctoral students described their new research projects, to the Tech Demo sponsored by Autism Speaks with live demonstrations of technologies being developed to benefit a number of critical areas affecting individuals with ASD, their families and professionals, this meeting truly was the premiere venue for the latest in autism research.
I can honestly say that while I’m still trying to take it all in, this is what I really do love about my job. How amazing to have the opportunity to raise awareness about research that may make a difference in people’s lives, and to continue to learn about new research every day. This meeting reinforced what I’ve learned since working with Kennedy Krieger – individuals living with an ASD, their families, and the professionals dedicated to research and treatment are an incredible community.
And for those of us not living with an ASD, I thought I’d share an anecdote a friend shared with me. Sarah is nine- years old and her parents just explained to her that she has autism. Her sister, Jessica, is considered typically developing. Sarah later recounted the discussion with a family friend. “I have autism,” she said.” I don’t know WHAT Jessica has.” Sarah, thanks for your perspective!