Photo Credit: Michelle Fong
For decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the best estimate for the prevalence of autism, a developmental disorder that interferes with communication and social skills, was about four to five per 10,000 children. On December 18, the agency released new estimates that put the number much higher: one in every 110 U.S. kids. It also found that autism cases are four to five times more common among boys than girls.
That's no surprise to Michelle Fong, an editor at the Dayton Daily News in Dayton, Ohio, and her husband, also a newspaper editor. This past spring, their second child and only son, Maximilian, was diagnosed with a form of the disease. Fong told her story to Peg Tyre:
At first, we didn't suspect anything might be wrong with Max. His feet turned in when he walked and that worried me a lot. I was really focused on that. But after he was a year old and he starting missing developmental milestones, my concerns grew bigger. At one year, he wasn't saying words. I have an older child, Max's sister Sophia, who is three years older, and I noticed a difference between their development. The pediatrician told me not to worry, reminding me that boys often talk later. Second kids, too. But I worried. I knew something was wrong.
By the time he was 18 months old, my concerns were in full flower. Max was starting to do repetitive behaviors. He'd stand in front of the television and flap his arms. He had hyper focus. During his favorite show, Mickey Mouse Club House, his attention would get fixed and I could call his name a hundred times and it was as if he couldn't hear me.
He'd also put things in piles and line them up. He's very methodical, which is part of autism. He liked to throw his toy cars on the floor; he likes the sound. He had to throw all 10 of his cars at one time. If I redirected him, he had a total meltdown.