autism

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Five years ago, Seattle poet Heather McHugh got some unexpected news: She had been awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” of $500,000.

For the next two years, she tried to figure out what to do with the money. The grant comes with no strings attached, but McHugh says she didn’t want to spend it on herself.

The government's latest estimate shows that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder. That's a remarkable jump from just two years ago, when the figure was 1 in 88, and an even bigger jump from 2007, when it was just 1 in 150.

But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the agency's skyrocketing estimates don't necessarily mean that kids are more likely to have autism now than they were 10 years ago.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Some military families can’t get treatment for their children with developmental disabilities, even if it’s prescribed by a doctor. Washington’s senior senator hopes to force a change, even though her efforts have fallen short once before.

The controversy revolves around a therapy called Applied Behavior Analysis, which is widely used to treat children with autism by reinforcing desired behaviors. Tricare, the military insurance provider, does cover it for children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. But the therapy is being prescribed more and more to children with other disabilities, and those populations are not covered.

Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press

A government survey of parents says 1 in 50 U.S. schoolchildren has autism, surpassing another federal estimate for the disorder.

Health officials say the new number doesn't mean autism is occurring more often. But it does suggest that doctors are diagnosing autism more frequently, especially in children with milder problems.

The earlier government estimate of 1 in 88 comes from a study that many consider more rigorous. It looks at medical and school records instead of relying on parents.

danmachold / flickr

Scientists have been pretty sure autism must begin very early in development, possibly even at the moment a sperm meets an egg. New research, conducted partially in Seattle, supports two interesting theories: