Why are Autism Diagnostic Numbers Increasing?

Patreon members and YouTube channel members, & Facebook Supporters had access to this video on September 30, 2021. The video’s public release will be November 3, 2021.


Hey humans, Lyric here, and this week I’m going to be talking about why autism numbers have been going up over the past several years, and why this, actually, is a good thing.

 If you’re wondering. And would like to know more, please do stay tuned.

“Autism?! We didn’t have all this autism stuff when I was growing up! Oh my gosh! There are so many Autistic People now! This is an epidemic! Autistic People are everywhere, all of the sudden! Where did they come from?”

Have you heard this nonsense? Have you heard this nonsense?

Let’s talk about why this is nonsense and there is no autism epidemic.

First let’s tackle the first claim that “we didn’t have all this autism stuff when you were growing up”, because that one’s easy.

We didn’t have autism in our diagnostic manual until 1980. So there wasn’t the word in the language for autism. It wasn’t something that was diagnosed before 1980, but just because we didn’t have a word for autism and for Autistic People, doesn’t mean we weren’t here and we didn’t exist.

That doesn’t make sense. There are a lot of stars and planets in space that we haven’t named yet, but they are still out.

Because autism was not a diagnosis before 1980 in America, a lot of Autistic People would have been put away, and hidden, and institutionalized, and therefore made invisible, and given other labels up until 1980.

In the year, 2000. The rates of diagnosis for autistic children was 1 in 150, but then, six years later in 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended screenings for autism, during regular routine pediatric visits between the ages of 18 and then at 24 months.

So here’s the thing about that:

In 2006, when all of this started, I had already graduated high school. With all of this focus on Autistic children, specifically, hardly anyone has been focused on Autistic Adults.

I’m 34. And though I struggled a lot in school, and I even spent time in special education, and gifted and talented though, that didn’t go so well, my autism was missed.

We have this entire generation of Autistic Adults that are my age, maybe a little younger, and especially, older than me, who are likely missed by the system; because, when we were growing up, people around us had little to no experience with Autistic People. We didn’t really understand or know what autism was.

 Two years later, in 2008, the autism prevalence rates wore one in 88; and then in 2013, something very important happened. In the summer of 2013, the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM V was released.

In 2013, with this version of the DSM, they removed Asperger’s, as a diagnosis, from the diagnostic manual; and moving forward, people who would have previously been diagnosed as having Asperger’s, would now be diagnosed as Autistic, which meant that a lot more people were now going to suddenly be qualifying for this autism label.

In 2014, the numbers released by the CDC, on autism prevalence, were one in 68.

That is up from 1 in 88, in 2008.

In 2020, most recently, the CDC has reported that approximately one in 54 children are estimated to be Autistic.

This is only talking about children, in their estimate, I want you to notice as well. They’re not talking about adults, or people who may not have the diagnosis, or those missing generation of Autistic People who were missed, or those are self-diagnosed, or those who don’t even know about their Autistic.

It is likely we are going to continue to see the number of Autistic People being diagnosed increasing, and that is not because there are suddenly more Autistic People.

The fact is, autism isn’t nearly as rare as we want thought it was. That’s why the diagnostic criteria has increasingly been widened over the years, to include more people who would have been left out previously; so that more of us can get the help, and the answers that we need.

There’s also been a lot more “awareness” of autism, and though there’s not really an epidemic, as some organizations have led us to believe in the past, more Autistic People speaking up, and sharing their experiences of what it’s like to be an Autistic Human living in the modern world, also leads to more and more people uncovering hidden truths about themselves. Yay internet!

For a long time, autism has been underdiagnosed, and we’re only just now getting on the way to correcting that wrong, and the harm that has been done by this.

Even today, autism is under diagnosed. It’s not over-diagnosed. I know there’s going to be some people mad at me for saying that, but it’s true, and gatekeeping access to this diagnosis only hurts Autistic People.

Unfortunately, we still have a huge diagnostic disparity. Poor Autistic People, underprivileged, Autistic People, Autistics of other minority groups, Autistics who are multiply marginalized, are less likely to be diagnosed, or have less access to diagnosis.

Some Autistic People are going to be labeled as having behavioral problems in school, instead of having our struggles recognized. I’m speaking from experience here, as someone growing up in the education system, that was needing a lot of help, but was dismissed as being lazy, and defiant, and rebellious, and all of these things; when I was just an anxious kid, that really needed some help with school.

This happens regularly; and then adult diagnosis, depending on where you live, there may or may not be doctors in your area willing to diagnose adults, and they often will only work with children, or if you are in another country, the waitlist can be years and years long.

 That is years, and years, of not being able to get answers to help yourself, when you are struggling in life.

I am incredibly grateful to have been diagnosed, late in life, at the age of 29, but I am also very aware of how lucky I am to have been caught, after becoming an adult, and leaving the education system; because our system doesn’t think much for, or take Autistic adults into consideration.

In addition, so many other Autistic People may not have the means to access the diagnosis, for so many reasons, so I feel very privileged to have this information about myself.

It has allowed me to move forward in my life, and start to heal myself, from a lifetime of trauma, knowing I was different, feeling myself struggle, but not having the language to describe and explain these differences.

All right, humans, thanks for hanging out me- hanging out me?

Thanks for hanging out with me this week, as I talk about “the Autism Epidemic”, “the raise in autism numbers”, and diagnosis, and self-diagnosis, and autism prevalence, and all of these numerical issues around Autistic People.

A little bit, a little bit of a different beat, going through that timeline. I hope this was educational to you. Drop a comment below if you found this helpful.

If you’re self-diagnosed, I send my love. You are welcome, supported, and I hope you feel safe here.

Drop a comment and say hi, if you’re self diagnosed or diagnosed and you support self-diagnosed Autistic People, give them some love.

People need to be nice. It’s a complicated issue and some people don’t have the privilege of accessing a diagnosis.

All right, huge thank you to the Patreon supporters, and Facebook subscribers, and the YouTube channel members, who do that little monetary subscription, that helps with the transcriptioning software, and the web hosting.

I’m going to go transcribe this video now, and that takes me a while, but it would take me so much longer, without that software.

I could not do this blog without the help of the viewers. “The viewers like you make this possible.”

I’m not joking though. I need your help. I’m grateful for your help. I couldn’t be doing this without you.

So thanks for making this blog, everything it is, whether you’re a monetary subscriber, or you are here commenting, giving your video ideas, leaving your personal experiences, and suggestions, and feedback. Each and every single one of you makes this possible. I am so grateful.

Um, until next week humans, I will see you next Wednesday. Bye .


Help me get the word out!!! – If you like what I do, and would like more, please consider subscribing on Patreon. This blog is made possible by support from readers like YOU!  (Sharing my content is also, equally helpful!)

With gratitude,

– Lyric

8 thoughts on “Why are Autism Diagnostic Numbers Increasing?

  1. Oh absolutely. Just because it isn’t in a manual, does not mean it did not exist before.
    Husband’s dad scores on all the characteristics no contest, but he is in his 80s and as you say, it wasn’t a known thing back in the day.
    And Husband was not diagnosed until he was 28, after having to have navigated school, college and work with no support at all.

  2. Thank you so much for this blog! I didn’t get diagnosed until my 30s (ADHD and austism), either. In the 80s and 90s a lot of teachers assumed if you were in the gifted program that a lot of behavioral issues were just quirks, to the point where I went nonverbal for nearly three months without any issue.

    There are so many people who slipped through the cracks, and it is so difficult to get a diagnosis (financially and mentally — why is everything still done through phone calls!). I hope anyone who self-ids as autistic finds all the love and support they need.

  3. 59 and not diagnosed, but I am certain. The diagnosis didn’t exist in my childhood, so the teachers labeled me “gifted” and with “bad social skills” which they thought were caused by emotional problems. I have given up on telling medical providers that I think I’m autistic. I gave up on therapy because nobody seems to know about adult autism. They only know about children and ABA (which is bad.)

  4. Hi, I’m 65 and self diagnosed. I also have ADHD. I’ve suspected both for at least 6 years. When I retired two years ago I had time to study and found activists like you online. I happily embrace both labels.
    I have multiple diagnosed ASD family members on my maternal side and my sister has 5/7 children that are in the spectrum. My sister and I am positive that our father was on the spectrum.

    Now talking about labels, I’ve changed mine from bisexual to pan sexual. Im struggling with my identity label. I am a cis female and identify as female but I feel there is more. .
    I’ve taken on roles of traditional male in my triad. I have some male physical traits including beard growth and more testosterone than ‘normal’ females. I’m finally growing a beard since I retired.
    I’m not sure where I fit on the spectrum between male and female.

  5. I’m 45. No diagnosis. KNOW I have ADHD, and I suspect autism. You and other social media advocates have helped me see that I’m probably not a lazy socially deficient person who struggles massively with adulthood and struggled badly in school both academically and socially. I’m doing ok, but just doing ok seems SO much harder for me than it is for most people. I made an appointment and will talk to my Dr., but from what I’m hearing from most undiagnosed female adults, I don’t expect to be taken seriously. So, thank you so much for including and respecting the self diagnosed!!!

  6. I’m 57, diagnosed ADHD but positive I’m autistic as well. I’ve spent my entire life staring through the unbreakable glass wall at the normal people. I’m told I’m “hilarious” when I’m just reporting plainly on hypocrisy and other ridiculous things I observe, masking like a MFer. Thank you so much for accepting self-diagnosis.

  7. 60, undiagnosed, certainly autistic and ADHD. I suspect my siblings and parents, also. We all have quite a “reputation” among those who love us and those you hate us. I am pansexual, identify as female. I think gender constructs in society are a bunch of shit and mainly exist as tools of oppression. Grade 1-12 were horrible. I despised school. Both because it was horribly boring most of the time and the horrible social miseries. I was bullied until high school, when I confronted bullies and they, being cowards, backed the hell off and stopped. Rumors that I was a lesbian helped keep people away from me.

    I was diagnosed with PTSD 25 years ago. Sexual assaults, emotional abuse all took a toll on my young, autistic brain.

    I’m lucky to have, surprising to me every day, a large community of friends who love me and are my chosen family. They love me for who I am — took me most of my life to get here.

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