Autism awareness


Gov. John Kasich’s support of health insurance coverage that helps pay for autism-spectrum services, much like his decision to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program, reflects a pragmatism that benefits the state.

The governor has included such coverage in state insurance policies for 39,000 government employees. He also advocates requiring autism coverage in the policies private insurers would provide under Obamacare.

Now moderate lawmakers of both parties in the Ohio General Assembly must stand with Mr. Kasich against ideological opposition to his humane stance.

Autism affects one in 88 children and one in 53 boys. About 1.5 million Americans have some form of the disorder.

People with autism have lifelong problems with communication, attention, behavior, and social skills. The disorder has no known cause, and the number of cases is rising quickly.

Underfunded public school districts remain largely unprepared to handle the growth in the number of students with autism. Its social costs are exploding, as more young people afflicted by autism become adults. Fifteen years from now, the cost of caring for autistic children as they enter adulthood is projected at $27 billion a year.

The issue transcends partisanship. Yet recent events show a troubling lack of public awareness about autism.

The young man who killed 20 children and six adults in the Connecticut school massacre last December was believed to have had Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. Some reports sought to attribute his rampage to the disorder.

Locally, the president of the Oregon school board was charged this week with menacing and disorderly conduct after he engaged in a weight-room confrontation with a 25-year-old man who has autism. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sir Isaac Newton, Bill Gates, Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Michelangelo, Andy Warhol, and Emily Dickinson are among many high-profile figures who are believed to have had Asperger’s syndrome. So much for stereotypes about autism.

That’s why Mr. Kasich deserves commendation for his enlightened approach to autism. The opposition the governor faces speaks to the need for greater public awareness about autism, and well as financial help for the families it affects.