JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A new report released by the CDC shows a dramatic increase in kids diagnosed with Autism. Lawmakers urged Congress to pass the ABLE Act Thursday, as a way to help struggling families.
"It's terrifying," said Michelle Dunham. "Especially for individuals who are thinking about starting a family now."
Dunham knows a lot about Autism Spectrum Disorder. She runs the Jacksonville School for Autism. Dunham holds the hands of parents trying to cope with Autistic kids and has poured over the limited research available.
But Dunham, like medical professionals has no solid explanation why at 18 months old her son Nicholas was diagnosed with Autism.
"It was almost as if I flipped a switch," said Dunham. "One day he was talking and looking at us. After his inoculations, he was no longer responded to his name."
She says that's typical behavior for kids with Autism, as well as avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone, delayed speech, flapping their hands, rocking their bodies and obsessive interests.
"You can put every other disease state that is happening to children right now, put them all in one bucket and they will not equal the same incidents as autism."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, new data shows 1 in 68 children are Autistic. The estimate is based on information collected from records of 8-year-old children who lived in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. This new estimate is roughly 120% higher than it was about ten years ago when Dunham's son was diagnosed. Then, it was 1 in 150.
RELATED STORY: Autism rates soar, now affects 1 in 68 children
"It breaks my heart for all of those families out there," said Dunham. "Why don't we know what's going on with autism? Why is it taking so long to figure this out?"
Congressman Ander Crenshaw, Chairman of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommitte on Thursday called for Congressional passage of the ABLE Act. It would create tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities for expenses such as education, housing, medical and transportation.
Dunham says small steps are being taken but huge strides need to be made.
There are a number of community resources available: