MT group: Autism disorders sharply increasing

HELENA – Autism spectrum disorders diagnoses in Montana have increased as much as 80 percent in the last few years, partly thanks to increased awareness, according to the Childwise Institute, a Helena-based nonprofit that advocates for children’s well being and abuse awareness.

Similar to much of the United States, Montana has seen a dramatic rise in autism diagnoses, from 188 to 617 during 2000 to 2010, according to Autism Maps.

Friday and Saturday, Childwise is hosting an autism and Aspergers conference that is open to parents, educators and health professionals dealing with children with these disorders.

“We’re touching parents and teachers and they’re learning a great deal about, first of all, having some relief. I spoke with some parents earlier whose child was diagnosed earlier this year, in February. They’ve got a great sense of relief that they’re not alone and it’s not the end of the world and guess what? My child is still my child. No difference,” said Todd Garrison, the executive director at Childwise.

Autism spectrum disorders deal with developmental disability that causes problems with social interaction and communication. The conference focuses on students ages three to 21.

In 2010, 2.6 out of every 1,000 children in Montana were estimated to have autism spectrum disorder.

Garrison said that the increase of those diagnosed with the developmental disorder in Montana is due to better understanding among parents and medical professionals with diagnoses, signaling that it is more prevalent than anyone realized.

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