Over the years, autism rates have been increasing and today we’re now estimating that 1 in 68 children are being diagnosed with autism. With the prevalence of autism on the rise, we are left to wonder – why are the rates increasing so steeply over the years? Are there really that many more people with autism today than there was 20 or 30 years ago?
This is the question Steve Silberman set out to answer – and this led him down a very interesting path back through the history of autism. He uncovered a series of events that have all led up to where we are today. With a new book coming out called NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, Silberman shared some of his research findings at this year’s TED. Check out his TED Talk.
You may know actress Jessica Alba from movies such as Fantastic Four or Valentine’s Day, but she is also the co-founder of The Honest Company, a very successful, three-year-old consumer goods company that offers non-toxic household products. As covered in Forbes, Jessica had spent time in D.C. trying to lobby for the overhaul of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which allows for 80,000 chemicals to remain in household products untested. Frustrated by this process, she felt she could make more of a difference by selling an alternative to chemical-filled products.
Now, The Honest Company has 120 products and is planning to spend $3 million on social impact initiatives in 2015. Some of that money is going towards sponsorship of a lab at NY’s Mount Sinai Hospital – it will house an ultra-clean room where a team can research links between household chemicals and autism. They will do this by testing the baby teeth of children with autism and comparing them with those of children without autism. By looking at their baby teeth, the team can examine exposures to chemicals that can happen as early as the third or fourth month of pregnancy as the teeth were forming. This research follows the publication of research last year by the University of Chicago that showed exposure to certain toxins during fetal development affects the incidence of autism and intellectual disability.
Another amazing example of how peer support can make all the difference! Check out this video of Preston Lillis, a 5th grader in Grandville, Michigan, who has Asperger’s, get cheered on by his classmates during their annual Field Day. As shared here, Preston’s parents said Field Day usually made him anxious, so much so that last year Preston was so stressed it caused a migraine and he had to miss the event. So this year his teachers and classmates came up with a plan to let Preston win and make it a fun experience for him.
And it looks like it worked! It’s the little things and times of thoughtfulness that can really make a lasting impact.