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Autism numbers on the rise

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 25 2013 09:01:47 AM CDT

Autism numbers on the rise

It's a new record. The Centers for Disease Control now says one in just 50 children will be diagnosed with autism.

Groups in the area estimate about 1,000 people in the Lehigh Valley have the disorder. Services are struggling to keep up with the ever-growing demand.

With her neon ball, it's hard to miss Stacey Ludwig at the bowling alley.

But just a few years ago, an afternoon at the lanes might have been unthinkable for her.

"I love my daughter, and we need to get beyond the labels and also see people for who they are," said Mimi Ludwig, Autism Society of the Lehigh Valley.

Stacey has autism, and she's not alone.

A new government study says one in 50 school children are now diagnosed autistic.

"Whether it's one in 50 or one in 88, it's still a lot of children and young adults being diagnosed on the spectrum," Mimi Ludwig said.

So the question becomes: Are more kids developing autism or are doctors just better at diagnosing it?

"I think it's a little bit of both," said Mimi Ludwig.

Some parents believe environmental factors -- even vaccines -- could contribute, although researchers have yet to prove a link.

"If you buy a new car and you don't get in it after a couple of weeks, that windshield is dirty because of all the gas and the plastics. I'm just wondering whether we tax their immune systems," said parent Ray Laudenslager.

What is certain-- is that services aren't keeping up with demand.

Patrick Laudenslager's family waited years to enroll him in job training.

"There really wasn't a whole lot available. In fact, he was misdiagnosed. They said, 'Oh he's just got older brothers and sisters,'" said Ray Laudenslager.

"About 70 percent of adults with autism are unemployed, and that's really not acceptable," said Mimi Ludwig.

But with the tally rising every year, parents say we could strike out if we don't get more funding for autism.