The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released the results of a new parent survey on Friday, which show that 1 in 45 children in the country have autism. The previous estimate from the 2010 survey showed that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has autism.

The new number is from a 2014 survey of parents of 13,000 children, who were asked if their child was ever diagnosed with autism or a related disorder. In this survey, the CDC changed the way the questions were asked, CBS News reported, which many experts believe could be the reason for the increase.

Benjamin Zablotsky, an epidemiologist who helped lead the study, told Today.com that earlier questionnaires submitted to parents might have been confusing, hence the jump over the last few years. “We feel we are asking the question in a better way than before,” Zablotsky added. “One in 45 is what we think is the most accurate parental report of autism to date.”

For the 2011-2013 surveys, parents were first asked if their child had an intellectual disability, then if their child had any developmental delay and finally whether their child had received a diagnosis like autism, Down syndrome, sickle cell anemia, etc. The 2014 survey swapped the order of the last two questions and eliminated the other conditions, focusing solely on autism, Forbes reported.

The study showing one in 45 children have autism is just one of three estimates on autism released by the CDC on Friday. In a different survey among 47,000 children, it’s estimated still that 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum.

“Regardless of prevalence rates, we need to focus on ensuring all individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have access to much needed services and supports, because behind every number is someone who needs help today,” said Scott Badesch, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America.

Lead image via ThinkStock

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Bruce Hall is a legally blind photographer whose work has been featured all over the world and in magazines like National Geographic, but the photos he values most are of his family. Hall was born with an underdeveloped optic nerve, and he can only clearly see objects and people a few inches from his face. He learned to use cameras as a way to see the world — and as a way to connect with his twin teenage sons, Jack and James, who both have autism.

Jack and James are both nonverbal, so to maximize his interaction with them, Hall started taking photos. Once he takes a picture he can blow it up on his computer screen and see details he never could have seen at the time he snapped it.

“I do this to look at them,” Hall told The Mighty. “I just started chasing them and gave up control. I followed them into their space, and these chance encounters opened up an entirely new perspective on my photography and this project. So much of what’s gone on over the last 14 years has been so chaotic, so photography has been a way to look at them and gaze into their eyes.”

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Hall has done a great amount of work as an underwater photographer, and from an early age his sons, particularly Jack, have had a keen interest in water as well.

“It seems like the water is the place where Jack seems the most calm and content,” Hall told The Mighty. “In some of the those photos, that look on his face, you don’t often see that. It’s a way for us to connect, and I want to share it with other people.”

For the first 10 years of his sons’ lives, Hall took what he estimates to be 150,000 pictures. While working through a sea of images, Bruce and his wife Valerie Hall began to collaborate on a book project combining Hall’s photographs and Valerie’s narrative pieces of writing. Hall, who holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from University of California, Los Angeles, started writing captions and descriptions for some of the photos, detailing the adventures in each and how they made the family feel. Those images, words and feelings eventually turned into a 265-page book, “Immersed: Our Experience With Autism.”

“They are reflections on specific events or reactions to some aspect of living with autism, the effects on us as parents and on our neurotypical daughter, and the far-reaching repercussions and implications of autism in general,” Hall told The Mighty. “As a whole, the narrative describes the journey our family took during the early years of the boys’ lives, from the time before the diagnosis to their 10th birthday.  It honestly describes the struggles and sorrows, as well as the courage and laughter, that accompanied those most difficult years.”

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“As James lies still, with his ears underwater, he reflects a kind of peace and focus that I see in him at no other time. Maybe he likes it just because the worldly sounds are soothingly dampened. But his expression seems so intent and thoughtful that I could almost believe he is actually listening to something in the water. Maybe his questions about the world are answered there. Answers he cannot get from us.” — Valerie Hall (from “Immersed: Our Experience With Autism”)

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“Sometimes it seems like James belongs on another planet . . . Someplace with a completely different reality, where all the rules follow an alternative form of logic, and everything is perceived and interpreted according to physical laws that defy our own. And he may be wired perfectly for that other world. But he is not wired for this world. The traits we consider most human are exactly the ones that are alien to him. Language, mutual experience, relationships, empathy, a desire to create and express ideas, to achieve potential . . . Everything we may remember and value from our time on Earth and James seems to live outside of it.”

— Valerie Hall (from “Immersed: Our Experience With Autism”)

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“The first 10 years were very difficult for our family and for everybody,” Hall told The Mighty. “It is estimated that 25% of people with ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, are non-speaking and cannot speak for themselves. People like our sons are often underrepresented in the media, and we want to give them a voice in the discussion. I want the public to think about how these people are taken care of, and that they deserve everyone’s consideration.”

“We worry about their futures, and about the future for all the vulnerable people among us,” Hall continued. “We are working with non-profit R. Morgan Corp., and the Regional Center of Orange County to assist in the development of housing opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.”

“For the people who are struggling and going through this, we want them to know they’re not alone,” Hall added. “Most of the people who are going through tough situations often don’t want to talk about it, and they don’t want to ask for help. It’s hard enough to ask friends and family for help, and it’s even harder to ask strangers. Even tough situations you can figure a way through — you just keep doing what you can to help your family.”

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“He’s there. But he’s not. He sees me. But he doesn’t. He makes lots of sounds. But no words. His body is healthy, thriving, perfectly functional in every way. His mind is none of those things. Silky hair, luminous eyes, baby-soft skin, winning smile. So extraordinarily beautiful on the outside. So broken on the inside…James pours water over his hand, mesmerized by the sight, but he is unaware that most of what life can be, as enchanting and compelling to the rest of us as the running water is to him, slips continually through his fingers.”

— Valerie Hall (from “Immersed: Our Experience With Autism”)

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The Hall family recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund printing for the book. They truly hope sharing their stories will help change the world.

“Societies will be judged on how they treat their most vulnerable people,” Hall concluded. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to be good to one another, because if something happens to you, you hope that people will want to help you or that you will be treated humanely.”

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“I watch James as he walks across the yard, back and forth, muttering happily at the stack of photos in his hands. He loves to look at photos, even the same ones, over and over. He especially loves photos of himself, but he does also like looking at photos of others in the family. Well, sometimes.

He sits on the grass, sets the photos on the ground, arranges them in piles, stacks them back in a different order. ‘James?’ I point to the one he is looking at and ask him a question about it, but he does not look up. Sometimes when I ask him about a photo he will giggle, but usually he just turns his back, hunching over so that only he can see it.

It is like a close, private relationship, like nothing exists except James and his photos. He studies the faces and places, talking to them lovingly in his expressive gibberish. He has such a strong connection to them, spending so much time with them, day after day, and yet he has little interest in the actual people portrayed in the photos. For him, I suppose the people in the photos are ideal. They hold still, they don’t look back at him, talk at him, demand his attention or response. Without such interruptions or distractions, he can look closely at every detail, as long and as often as he wants.

I leave James with his photos and return to the house. At the end of the hall, I stop in the doorway of Bruce’s office. He has been holed up for the last couple hours, staring intently at his computer monitor. I wait there quietly for a few moments, but he does not look up.

‘Bruce?’ He still does not look up, but after a long moment replies, ‘Mmm?’ Another long moment, nothing. I ask brightly, ‘Whatcha doin’?’ He still doesn’t look up, but turns his back a little, hunches over the screen so I can’t see, and mutters, ‘Looking at pictures.'”

– Valerie Hall (from “Immersed: Our Experience With Autism”)

For more of Bruce Hall’s photography, be sure to visit his Facebook page and website, along with Bruce and Valerie Hall’s Kickstarter page for “Immersed: Our Experience With Autism.”

All photos and excerpts in this article courtesy of Bruce and Valerie Hall

h/t The Photo Argus


Dayann and Brian McDonough’s sons, 10-year-old Douglass and 8-year-old Donovan, both have autism and are prone to elopement. The boys wandered away from home and school a total of 14 times over the last two years, and after installing alarms and extra locks on their family home, the McDonoughs had their children wear GPS tracking devices.

Elopement, or wandering, is a daily challenge for many parents of children with autism — 49 percent of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a tendency to wander or bolt from safe settings, according to the National Autism Association.

While the tracking devices allowed the McDonoughs to breathe a sigh of relief, the boys’ schools refused to let Donovan and Douglass wear the trackers on campus. “We were blindsided,” Brian McDonough told NBC New York. “They didn’t want to listen to common sense.”

“I haven’t slept in my own bed for about the past four years because I’m so terrified he’s going to run off and I’m not going to hear him in time,” Dayann McDonough added to ABC 7 Eyewitness News.

The schools claimed GPS devices could threaten the confidentiality of other students, but after a month of discussions, the McDonoughs finally convinced the school district to allow their boys to wear trackers to class.

Parents attach the trackers to their child’s clothing, and the devices are connected to an app called AngelSense. The tracker can only be removed with a magnetic key, and it sends parents alerts on the whereabouts of their children. It also has a “listen in” feature that allows parents to hear real time audio of what their child is doing.

David Feller, superintendent of North Merrick school district, where Donovan is a student, told NBC New York. “We would not put up any roadblocks to a device designed to ensure a child’s safety.”

I feel very safe,” Douglass McDonough told ABC 7 Eyewitness News.


Just before 1 a.m. on Oct. 28, the body of 3-year-old Cameron Thomas was found in the wetlands near his family’s home in Chesapeake, Virginia. Cameron, who had autism, is believed to have exited the home through a window shortly after 6 p.m., according to WAVY News.

A local search party found the child, and the following day a spokesperson for the Chesapeake Police confirmed Cameron’s cause of death was drowning.

Cameron’s father, Cody Thomas, spoke with 13News Now about how the family is coping with the tragedy. “I’m going to miss him every day for the rest of my life,” Thomas said. “I don’t think there’s gonna be a minute that goes by that I don’t think about him. Same with his mom.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with funeral costs, and any leftover donations will be given to other families of children with autism who deal with elopement. So far $13,950 has been raised, with the original target of $10,000.

“All remaining proceeds will go to helping the autism chapter of Hampton Roads get GPS trackers for families who can’t afford them, so this never happens to another child again,” the page reads.

Elopement, or wandering, is a daily struggle for many parents of children with autism — 49 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a tendency to wander or bolt from safe settings, according to the National Autism Association. Drowning is a leading cause of death in children with ASD, accounting for approximately 90 percent of fatalities.

Many families say they haven’t received professional advice or guidance aboout elopement, but a number of resources exist. Autism Speaks provides a list with a number of GPS tracking devices on the “Safety Products” section of its website, and clothing company Independence Day Wearable Tech sells apparel implanted with trackers.


Caleb Dyl made headlines earlier this month when a reporter uncovered that the 21-year-old had worked at an Applebee’s restaurant in Middletown, Rhode Island, for nearly a year without getting paid. After dozens of news outlets then covered the story, a rep from the restaurant confirmed Dyl will finally be compensated for all 480 of the hours he worked, WPRI reported.

Dyl, who has autism, was placed at the job by social service agency Resources for Human Development (RHD). He took on an unpaid position for nearly a year in Applebee’s training program. After that, the restaurant reportedly agreed to hire him as a part-time worker in August 2014. Dyl’s parents then filled out the appropriate forms for direct deposit and W-4, but he never received a paycheck. When the family inquired about this, they were informed the paperwork was lost, so they filled out another set of forms.

When the story broke, Applebee’s agreed to pay Dyl 166 hours in backpay — the number of hours they said RHD records indicated Dyl had worked. However, his parents claimed the total was closer to 480. The Dyls were told the discrepancy was the result of their son not clocking in — something his case worker should have helped him do, WPRI reported.

Though the restaurant has now agreed to pay Dyl for the full 480 hours, the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals is still investigating the incident.


The autism community is in an uproar about the fact that Facebook has yet to confirm removal of the group page “Families Against Autistic Shooters.”

Though Forbes reported the page was taken down on Sunday, it was online again on Monday morning, only to appear down again by Monday afternoon.

In a screenshot of the Facebook page, posted on the popular autism awareness blog “Ask An Aspie,” one can see that the page’s description read, “What do all shooters over the last few years have in common? A lack of empathy and compassion due to Autism!” According to Forbes, one post on the page made a remark about “the soulless, dead eyes of autistic children,” calling them “cold, calculating killing machines with no regard for human life!”

The hateful page gained attention over the weekend, after several news outlets reported the gunman who killed nine people at an Oregon community college on October 1, had attended Switzer Learning Center in Torrence, California, a school for students with “moderate to severe learning disabilities, emotional issues, attention problems, and behavioral disorders,” including autism spectrum disorder. Authorities have not confirmed that the gunman had autism.

There is currently an online petition on Change.org pushing for the permanent removal of the Facebook page, along with a handful of Facebook groups protesting the page, including “Families against the page ‘Families Against Autistic Shooters.‘”

After reporting the Facebook page for displaying hate speech, Ask An Aspie received a response from Facebook, saying the page did not violate their community standards. The full response read:

Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the Page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards. Note: If you have an issue with something on the page, be sure to report the content (ex: a photo), not the entire page. That way, your report will be more accurately reviewed.

In the Community Standards section of Facebook, the social network states that it wants “people to feel safe when they use Facebook,” adding that content that attacks people based on, among other things, “serious disabilities or diseases,” will be removed.

Facebook has yet to respond to The Mighty’s request for a comment.

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