1 in 55 people live their life on the Autism Spectrum. Many of these people go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed because of a lack of awareness by parents, educators, mental health professionals, and doctors.
Parents who don't recognize the signs early on in their child's life may excuse or minimize symptoms they see in their children as being "odd" or "quirky." If they do suspect something is "off", they may take their child to their pediatrician who may misdiagnoses the child and prescribe unnecessary medications. Parents with good intentions may overly discipline their children for acting out thinking they need more direction and correction.
As the child gets older and enters school, educators may see the child as "acting out" in class or label them with having Oppositional Defiance Disorder, AD/HD, or other behavioral problem. The parents may be directed to take their child for mental health services to treat Anxiety and Depression. Unfortunately, many medical and mental health professionals are not trained to look for the signs of Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and would not consider ASD as a possible diagnosis because the individual does not display intellectual or language impairment. So the therapist may focus to resolve symptoms of Anxiety and Depression missing the big picture all together.
Researchers believe the number of children/adults diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum will increase to 1 in 10 within the next decade. Why are ASD numbers rising? Some say it's because of increased education and awareness. Others blame toxins and metals in our environment, vaccines, and climate change. There is no united senses in the medical field regarding the cause, but one thing is certain, there needs to be more education offered to parents, teachers, medical professionals, and universities training students in mental health.
Sarah Kurchak is an adult woman living with Autism. In 2020 she wrote a book called, "I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder." She is a woman who wasn't diagnosed with Autism until her mid 20's. Now she is an author and advocate for others with Autism. There needs to be less fear around this discussion and more courageous efforts made to inquire, assess, and diagnose. With a clear idea of the problem, solutions and resources can more easily be found.