GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. More doctors around the country are giving parents the sometimes shocking news that their children have been diagnosed with autism.
"Very hard to have somebody tell you that your child may have something like autism," said Drew Mayer, whose 8-year-old son is living with autism. "That was hard for me to stomach."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 1 in 68 children were diagnosed on the autism spectrum in 2010, compared to 1 in 88 two years before and 1 in 166 in 2000.
"Be open to the possibility that your child may be going down a different path than what you had thought," Mayer said. "The earlier you can start helping them go down that path, the better."
Mayer brings his son Elliot to Firefly Autism West for applied behavior analysis multiple times a week.
"I love my child. I love Elliot for who he is," Mayer said. "I think the hard part is the services and the systems in place are difficult to navigate for parents. It's not going to get better with more children getting into the system. I think the system is not ready for all of these kids."
Experts said early intervention and access to therapy are the most critical components of raising successful children living with autism, but they system does still needs some help.
"Parents try and I know that they want to have a diagnosis as soon as they can, but the waiting lists are incredible," said Autum Harman, division manager for Firefly Autism West. "To go to Children's Hospital it can be six months just in Denver, just to be seen."
Treatment throughout the lifetime of someone diagnosed with autism can cost $3.2 million, but with early intervention, that number can be brought down to $1.2 million, Harman said.
"It's hugely important that families and people get together and write their representatives and be public about it, get involved," Harman suggested.