When autism advocate Jane Grimes’ daughter was diagnosed with autism at age 6, the statistics of those with autism was one in 10,000. Now, nine years later, the national rate is one in 68 children according to a recently released CDC study. This is a 30 percent increase from the 2012 report.
Grimes said the increased rate is due to better diagnosis, significant environmental factors, a genetic component and the spectrum is broad.
“Indiana is still the seventh highest state in numbers in autism,” she said. “The numbers are soaring and they aren’t going to go away. There isn’t a cure.”
Grimes said the top three biggest challenges a family with autism faces are acceptance, the financial burden and support.
“As a parent it’s exhausting. You’re so caught up in the now that it’s hard to think of what the next journey is or what the future holds for not only your child with autism but the entire family,” she said. “So immersed in tackling and getting through the day or the week that we don’t spend the time you need to think about two weeks from now, let alone 10 years from now.”
Grimes said support can come from a friendly smile during tough times in public to neighbors or family friends offering to watch the child so the parents can get a break or have a date night.
“Everyone’s heard the word autism. Not everybody understands the different levels of autism but we are getting better,” Grimes said, adding the spectrum ranges from non-verbal to high functioning.
Grimes said a lot of individuals with autism look very typical but act up because something in their environments sensory-wise sets them off.
And in September, Grimes launched the Autism Companion magazine.
“I just jumped in,” she said. “I quit my nice six-figure job to launch a quarterly magazine. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. It addresses so many questions, anxieties and worries that a family goes through in the autism journey.”
Grimes said the target audience is families, educators and medical professionals. Sections are broken down by years and include several articles in each edition written by those with autism.
“It’s a glimpse of what an individual with autism really thinks, how they feel, how their brain works and what they want you to know,” Grimes said. “It brings more knowledge into our community in general.”
The magazine, which is created with a team of volunteers, contains expert topics including special education, speech and language, neurology, behavior and nutrition. Grimes said the goal is to inform and let others know they are not alone in the autism world.
“I wanted there to be more knowledge in the community and more support to the families – being behind the scenes to make a difference,” she said. “It’s such a significant, difficult journey. A piece of my heart is in each magazine, it’s who I am.
Autism Companion is circulated in Hamilton County and the other eight counties surrounding Marion County.
“My goal is for it to be a state magazine but the funding is not there yet,” Grimes said.
For more information visit www.autismcompanion.com.