Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Autism on the Rise?

The October 5, 2009 issue of Pediatrics included a new report about the prevalence of autism. The study's findings were based on data obtained from a survey given to parents in 2007. The survey asked parents if their child had ever been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and still had the disorder. Researchers discovered that the prevalence of children with ASD was 1 in 91 children. This number is much higher than previous estimates by the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network that found the prevalence of ASD to be 1 in 150 children.

How can we make sense of the large increase in numbers? Caution is advised since there has been a great deal of recent publicity about ASD as well as growing public awareness. This may have impacted the identification of more cases of ASD that otherwise would have been missed. Screening of younger children has increased and doctors are much more willing to make a diagnosis of ASD for children at an early ages.

Many education professionals are of the opinion that there has been an increase in the number of children with autism. Sometimes these educators and therapists have a skewed view because they may be in a school district that works very well with families who have children with special needs. Consequently, parents tend to flock to these school districts with good reputations and artificially raise the relative number of children with ASD.

Hopefully, more research studies will be put forth trying to figure out the true nature of our challenge with ASD. It is definitely a situation we would all like to have make more sense!

Click here for the abstract.

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