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Understanding Autism

The good news

Millions of dollars have been spent to determine what autism is, what causes it, and how we might prevent or cure it. And that's all to the good. We're on the brink of learning which genes predispose a child to autism and what might trigger its onset.

While a cure is not yet in sight, we've begun to figure out what works for some children, in terms of intervention between the ages of 12 months and 5 years.

"I do think, on balance, kids are doing better," says Dr. Volkmar. "Twenty-five years ago, when I did my first follow-up on adults I'd diagnosed as kids  -- kids who never had any intervention  -- only about two percent could live alone, hold a job. But since we started mandating education and services, we're seeing more independent kids. I'd say that two percent has become more like twenty."

In other words, we're doing ten times better than we were a generation ago. That's the "growing number" we should be aware of. And that's the evidence we should start seeing everywhere.