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Autism in Oregon

OPB | Feb. 1, 2008 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:39 p.m.

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naraekim0801 / Flickr / Creative Commons None

I’m the parent of a young child, and this is what could happen to me tonight: I put my one year old to bed and head out to the couch to watch a bit of television before I go to bed myself. ABC’s premiering a new legal drama, Eli Stone — perfect relaxation TV, I figure.

Then the show starts and I discover this episode is focused on the link between autism and vaccinations. It is a fictional show, but still: fear strikes.

This particular fear is not at all unknown to the parents of young children. The Center for Disease Control reports that more children than ever before are being classified as having autism spectrum disorders. And according to the Autism Society of Oregon, our state has the highest rate of autistic diagnosis in the United States, with one in 98 children being diagnosed somewhere on that spectrum. It’s a whole lot higher than the already alarming national rate of one in 150.

We could go back and forth for an entire hour — or for many hours — about the cause(s) of autism… and we probably still wouldn’t get very far. Many parents of autistic children will hold mercury in vaccinations responsible. And many health officials and doctors will say that it has nothing to do with vaccines. Someone will argue it’s because of the rain in Portland. And others will just say it’s over-diagnosed.

And parents like me will still be scared.

Do you anxiously watch every step of your child’s development, fearful of what could be? And what about those whose fears have come true? What are we doing to aid the thousands of children in Oregon and Washington who are diagnosed with autism? Since we have the highest rate of diagnosis in the country, are we also setting a standard for care? How are we helping those parents who, once the child is diagnosed, probably live with more fear than I can possibly understand?

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