Adult autism diagnosis rates on the rise in SE Wisconsin

NOW: Adult autism diagnosis rates on the rise in SE Wisconsin

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- In March of 2023, the CDC published a study that said one in 36 children is being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Autism organizations said they're seeing diagnosis rates rise within adults.

"For the first time in my life, I finally understand who I am, and I finally get why I work the way I work and do the things I do, and think the way I think," said Kelly Backes.

Backes found out she was on the spectrum about a year ago. The thought of getting a diagnosis came after Backes was listening to a podcast hosted by a comedian with autism.

"She was talking about how she reads people's lips, and it's not because she can't hear the volume but because it helps her process what they're saying, and I read lips too," said Backes. 

Backes, now the board president of the Autism Society of Southeast Wisconsin, has been working with the organization for nine years. They joined after their son was diagnosed with autism.

"When he was diagnosed, not once did it occur to me, 'oh, me too,'" said Backes.

Backes is part of a diagnosis rate that has been rising since the pandemic, said Rechelle Chaffee, executive director of the Autism Society of Southeast Wisconsin.

"What we found since the pandemic, actually, is that more and more individuals are seeking diagnosis in the state of Wisconsin," said Chaffee.

Chaffee believes many adults had "masked" their symptoms but now are getting comfortable and curious. Lack of resources is still a concern.

"So just finding that provider to even do the diagnosis, that was challenging even of itself," said Backes.

Backes said by sharing their diagnosis, they want others to find comfort like they did.

"It was just a sense of relief, sense of freedom."

The Autism Society of Southeast Wisconsin offers a free helpline at 414-988-1260.

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