Autism: A Disease of the Rich? is the title of a New York Times Freakonomics blog post on this PLOS One study, Socioeconomic Inequality in the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from a U.S. Cross-Sectional Study.
Sure, families with more economic resources are more likely to have access to doctors, school services, therapists, information and education that might lead them to suspect and seek out an autism spectrum diagnosis for their child, and then to be able to provide that child with supports and services.
In the effort of providing such (services, supports) for our particular (lovely, autistic) child, it would be inaccurate to say that we have become richer, in an economic sense. Let's not even bring up having dental surgery under anesthesia at a hospital to get 'routine dental care' performed; maintaining two residences for a few years (that is, paying mortgage + rent) so Charlie could attend an in-district autism program whose personnel in the end decided that he should be, at least temporarily, institutionalized; paying up various bills for home repairs (plumbers are not cheap, especially if called repeatedly), car upkeep, etc., etc..
And I'm not even throwing in bills for private ABA/speech/occupational/physical/ETC. therapy, or the rate we paid sitters when we could find people to watch Charlie.
If we were 'rich' and then Charlie got diagnosed with autism---a correlation suggested by the New York Times Freakonomics blog post's irresponsible headline---then allow me to suggest a few corollaries.
If autism is a disease of the rich, this is a good thing, as you would otherwise become poor paying for all of the above.
Or perhaps more accurately:
If autism is a disease of the rich, it is more technically termed a disease of the financially-strapped after a child is diagnosed. And let's not get started about the employment options, or shamefully huge lack thereof, for many adults.
Autism is a disease of the rich, in what is very much a figurative sense. We are by no means an economically over-endowed household but lemme tell you, every time I see Charlie zooming down the street on his bike, swimming out in the ocean, and just walking through the rooms of our house jabbering away in his one- and three- word utterances, I feel like I've been handed a million dollars.
Yes, maybe autism is a disease of the rich after all.
O New York Times, I know you can't be all that wrong now, can you?