GRANGER In March the Centers for Disease Control released new data about the number of children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Since 2008, the numbers increased by 30%. Now, one in 68 children is diagnosed with having Autism, that's up from one in 88 six years ago.
To keep up with the growing need, Michiana facilities are expanding. Two years ago, the Sonya Ansari Autism Learning Center opened a new facility in Granger. Recently, they expanded again into St. Joseph, Michigan. Both facilities are at or near capacity.
Researchers haven't been able to pinpoint why more children have Autism. Some experts say certain factors might lead to the disorder. In Granger, a therapist says early intervention and therapy is key.
"There's the theory that we're just better at diagnosing, there is more awareness so parents are more tuned into the early signs," said Cathy Stapleford of the ALC. "Then there are different environmental factors, there are all kinds of theories floating around, but the one thing we do know is ABA is an extremely effective method, and we're going to become more and more needed as time goes by."
Today, children are being diagnosed as young as 15-18 months old with Autism. Treatment facilities like the ALC serve children ages 2-12.
"It's becoming unusual not to have some kind of personal connection to Autism, a family member, a neighbor, someone in your church," said Dan Ryan, the Director at the Sonya Ansari Autism Learning Center. "So, the more awareness and understanding, I think it's better for everyone."