HEALTH

Utah families search for support as autism rate climbs

Apr 30, 2018, 7:45 AM | Updated: 9:17 am
Laura Anderson kisses her son Ty at Vista Education Campus in Farmington in this Oct. 22, 2015, fil...
Laura Anderson kisses her son Ty at Vista Education Campus in Farmington in this Oct. 22, 2015, file photo. Ravell Call/Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — When Ty Anderson was just 22 months old, the smiling toddler changed. He stopped talking. He stopped progressing.

Ty’s mother, Laura Anderson, spent months arranging speech therapy, intervention, and psychiatric sessions before learning her toddler had something very new to the Andersons: autism.

This was 1999, and Laura Anderson says most of her family had never heard the word. Support and resources were scarce. Anderson was told about just one preschool that could help Ty.

“We were 13th on the waiting list and devastated,” she said.

In the 19 years since Ty’s diagnosis, Anderson says she’s watched more and more families go through the fear and desperate struggle for resources that she’s faced.

“We were able to get into a preschool at Davis School District, a diagnostic preschool for autism. There were four cute little kids. By the time we left three years later, there were two classes with 12 kids in each class,” Anderson said.

And the same preschool that put her on a waiting list back in 1999 now has thousands of people waiting for help.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has regularly documented jumps in the number of kids diagnosed with autism. This year, it released a report showing yet another massive increase: For every 59 children, one will have autism. Compare that with just two years ago, when the rate was closer to 1 in 68.

“It really doesn’t surprise me,” said Anderson, who is also the former president of the Autism Council of Utah. “It’s an opportunity to get the appropriate help. It’s an opportunity to get the appropriate supports.”

For Anderson, daily life is exhausting. Ty can’t be left alone. He follows a close routine that includes school, skills training, and a relaxing movie before bedtime. His entire life revolves around stability and routine to avoid overstimulation. If he is overwhelmed, Ty can become violent because he doesn’t understand any other way of coping, Anderson said.

“It just never stops. That’s our life. That’s our norm and we don’t know anything else,” she said. “Autism never allows you to catch up, but that’s our situation. That’s our autism. Not everyone else’s.”

That has been a silver lining in the rising number of kids diagnosed with autism. Anderson said people have started to recognize the word and understand that every case of autism is different and needs individualized support.

“We’re starting to get, ‘Here’s your list of resources based on your child’s needs. Here’s your child’s individual needs,’ not, ‘Here’s your one option,'” she said.

When Anderson first began advocating for families with autism, she said the state Legislature was reluctant to listen. Over the years, lawmakers have started calling on the council for information and understanding. In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill to help families get insurance support for children with autism.

But Anderson says it’s not enough.

“Now they seem to be embracing it, but no one really knows what to do. The issue is funding,” she said. “The more we talk about it, it helps, but it comes down to dollars and cents. We have 2,000 people sitting on a waiting list waiting for services through the (Utah) Division of Services for People With Disabilities. That’s just not right.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Health

FILE - A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at ...
Aimee Cobabe

Bill banning vaccine passports heading to Utah Senate

A bill to ban vaccine passports is heading out of the Utah House and into the Utah Senate. The bill is similar to a failed bill from 2022.
20 hours ago
A bill on transgender healthcare — banning transgender-related surgeries and puberty blockers for...
Eliza Pace, KSL TV and Aimee Cobabe, KSL NewsRadio

Utah Senate approves changes to transgender care bill, passes on to Gov. Cox

SB16 bans gender-confirming surgeries for minors and also places a moratorium on puberty blockers for minors.
4 days ago
Havasu Falls spills into the water pools below in Supai, Arizona, in October of 2016. Photo credit:...
Forrest Brown, CNN

Grand Canyon’s Havasu Falls to reopen to visitors after 3-year closure

 (CNN) — Havasu Falls, one of the most intriguing features of the Grand Canyon system, will be reopening to visitors after a three-year closure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s with a catch. The reopening is scheduled for February 1; however, access will be limited initially to a certain, small group. People whose previous […]
4 days ago
White carnations representing each of the 1,746 unborn babies that were aborted in Utah in 2022 are...
Allessandra Harris and Simone Seikaly

Speeches, silence, during Pro-Life Utah memorial at the Capitol

About 100 people including Utah lawmakers and religious leaders attended the memorial on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
5 days ago
 A mental health clinic will reopen on Thursday after a carbon monoxide leak sent at least 17 peop...
Michael Locklear

Carbon monoxide poisoning at central Utah clinic hospitalizes 17 people

The Central Utah Counseling Center in Ephraim was evacuated a week ago after a problem with an old furnace was discovered.
6 days ago
a row of guns are pictured...
Mark Jones

KSL at Night: How do we solve gun violence?

KSL at Night hosts Taylor Morgan and Maura Carabello speak with Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council about gun violence.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Utah families search for support as autism rate climbs