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Year in Review: Major Events of 2013

autism awareness news

Year in Review: Major Events of 2013 for the Autism Community

This past year was a significant one for the autism community. Between the new research claims linking everything from traffic pollution to grandfather’s age as a cause of autism to the release of new diagnostic criteria for the disorder, individuals in the autism community have had a lot to absorb and process. The National Autism Network has decided to highlight some of the major events in 2013 that will continue to have an impact on the autism community for years to come.
  • Release of the DSM-5- The controversial release of the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), occurred in May of 2013. Published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the DSM-5 included a revamped definition of ASD, which previously included autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder, but is now a single spectrum disorder known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. The publication also added somewhat controversial diagnostic criteria for the new disorder known as Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder. The DSM-5 also limited the traditional three categories of ASD symptoms (social difficulties, communication impairments, and repetitive/restricted behaviors) to just two (social communication impairment and repetitive/restricted behaviors). The new diagnosis also includes 3 levels of severity that help clinicians to determine what type of supports are required during intervention.
  • Affordable Care Act- The Affordable Care Act is new national health care legislation that mandates that everyone who is eligible must have health insurance or pay a penalty. While there is a federal program that provides a certain status quo nationwide, there are some specifics of the new law that are to be carried out by the individual states. The nationwide essential health benefits that may help individuals on the autism spectrum include prescription drugs, rehabilitative/habilitative services, and behavioral health treatment, which may or may not include ABA. Depending on your state, the ACA will provide coverage for ABA services. An expected 26 states and the District of Columbia will provide coverage for ABA therapy under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Insurance Reform- The Affordable Care Act is not the only type of insurance reform effecting the autism community. In fact, a number of major companies, including Qualcomm, United Technologies Corporation (UTC), American Express, and others, announced that they will be offering coverage for ABA services for their employees. Additionally, TRICARE, the health care program for the United State military, implemented an Applied Behavior Analysis Pilot Program for non-active duty family members. These acts of autism insurance reform are another example of corporations and our government realizing the impact autism spectrum disorders are having on our families and our society.
  • Autism Rate at 1 in 50- A federal survey from the National Health Statistics Reports, conducted by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and released in March of 2013, indicates that the current prevalence rate for ASD in the United States may be as high as 1 in 50. The data was collected from a telephone survey of 100,000 parents of children aged 6 to 17. These figures are higher than the figure of 1 in 88, which was previously reported through the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) in 2012. These figures have prompted government representatives to continue to pledge their support for federally funding research and support programs for autism spectrum disorder.
  • $100 Million Brain Initiative- In January of 2013, President Obama introduced the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or BRAIN Initiative. According to The White House Blog, the initiative is described as a research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. The initiative represents an historic investment to attempt to understand the most complex organ in the human body. Many equate this dedication to understanding the brain to the Human Genome Project, which worked to map the entire human genome and lessened the cost of sequencing a single human genome from $100 million to $7,000, opening the door to personalized medicine. The $100 million price tag for this initiative is being supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the National Science Foundation in the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Ideally, this investment will reveal the mysteries of the brain allowing for a great reduction of future research and treatment costs.