A state senator whose grandchild is autistic is asking his colleagues to do more to address what he calls a crisis. Senator Daryl Beall, a Democrat from Fort Dodge, says one of his identical twin grandsons has been diagnosed with autism.
"Today is National Autism Awareness Day. Autism affects one out of 150 children born in the United States. Only 20 years ago that number was one out of 10,000," Beall says. "Clearly, folks, we have an epidemic here."
Autism is considered a brain development disorder. Those who have it often display repetitive behavior and have trouble communicating with others. Beall says his grandson, Drew, seemed to be developing into a "bright little boy" when he was a toddler. "He could count from one to 20 (frontward) and backwards. He could read license plates and knew then that a six inverted was a nine," Beall says. "At about the age of 18 months my son, his father, who is a special education teacher and has worked with autistic children and Drew’s mother, Kim, who worked with autistic children at a group home, started to see some signs that bothered them." Drew started to withdraw and his grandfather says it was clear he was on a "downward spiral."
"He regressed, quit talking and went into his own little world," Beall says. Beall worries about the stress his son and daughter-in-law, who live in Ballard, face in caring for an autistic child as a majority of the parents of autistic children divorce.
As for what causes autism, the jury’s still out. "There are both environmental factors as well as hereditary factors or some sort of genetic disorder because a subsequent child born to the parents of an autistic child has a (greater) likelihood of autism, yet there are some other factors that belie that," Beall says. "Why would Drew develop autism when his identical ‘clone’ twin brother is a normal little boy?" The twin boys are currently six years old.