Randolph, Mass.: The decision this week by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (Vaccine Court) is consistent with the many scientific studies that have found no causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. It also underscores the critical need for more rigorous research to identify the causes of autism.
The frustration on the part of all families who continue to seek answers is very real. The debate will continue as long as the causes of autism remain unclear. Both genetic and environmental explanations should continue to be explored scientifically.
Although the causes of autism are still unknown, there is much that we do know:
Autism rates are increasing. Autism now occurs in one in every 150 births; the number of diagnosed cases has dramatically increased over the past decade. It is considered a “national public health crisis” by the CDC, and is more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.
There are treatments that work. Effective, evidence-based treatments are available now. Hundreds of studies indicate that applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the most effective method to teach children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Tested by research and experience for over 40 years, ABA practices have been endorsed by the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health, and the Association for Science in Autism Research.
Time is not benign. The majority of children with autism and/or developmental or behavioral disabilities are not identified as having a problem until they start school. Early intervention can provide significant opportunities for a child’s long-term success.
It’s never too late. Effective treatments are available for children, adolescents, and adults on the autism spectrum. Meaningful improvements in quality of life can be attained across the lifespan.
Money can be saved. According to a 2006 Harvard School of Public Health report, the cost of autism-related lifelong care can be reduced by two-thirds with early diagnosis and effective intervention. The percentage of individuals requiring lifelong care can also be reduced by almost 50 percent.
Susan M. Wilczynski, Ph.D., BCBA, Executive Director of the National Autism Center, is available for further comment. She oversees the National Standards Project, collaborating with experts from around the country to establish national standards of education and behavioral intervention for children with autism. She holds a joint appointment with May Institute, where she serves as Senior Vice President of Autism Services.
Dr. Wilczynski has authored numerous articles on the treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Prior to joining the National Autism Center, she developed and directed an intensive early intervention program for children with ASD at Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She has held academic appointments at the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Wilczynski is a licensed psychologist and a board certified behavior analyst.
About May Institute
May Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral healthcare services to individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, brain injury, mental illness, and behavioral healthcare needs. The Institute also provides training and consultation services to professionals, organizations, and public school systems. Since its founding over 50 years ago, May Institute has evolved into an award-winning national network that serves over 25,000 individuals and their families annually. With corporate headquarters in Randolph, Mass., the Institute operates more than 200 service locations in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and on the West Coast.
About The National Autism Center
The National Autism Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting effective, evidence-based treatment approaches for autism, and to providing direction to families, practitioners, organizations, policy-makers, and funders. The Center is committed to identifying and applying universal standards for the treatment of autism and to providing care and hope to families throughout the country.