Federal health authorities have substantially increased their estimate of the prevalence of autism in kids, stating in a new study of 8-year-olds that 1 in 88 children now has some form of the disorder.
The analysis was released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It represents just the latest piece of research showing autism rates rising significantly over the last ten years. The previous estimates showed that 1 in 110 children had autism.
Is autism really on the rise, though? The researchers seemed to suggest that increasing awareness of the disorder and improved detection may explain much of the increase, and maybe even all of it.
Dr. Daniel Geschwind, an autism expert at UCLA, said that, at first, he was taken aback by the size of the increase…25% in just two years.
“But when I looked at what seems to be driving it, it made total sense,” he said.
He and other experts said that social and cultural factors likely influence who gets a diagnosis.
“Public awareness has gone up and case identification has gotten better,” said Dr. Young-Shin Kim, an autism expert at Yale University.
No one yet knows what causes autism. There is no blood test or brain scan that can identify it. The disorder is diagnosed by its symptoms alone, which include social and communication difficulties along with repetitive behaviors or unusually intense interests.
In all, the CDC identified 3,820 children as having some form of the disorder, out of a total of 337,093 children in their surveillance area.
The overall rate was 1 in 88, but it varied greatly from state to state, from 1 in 47 in Utah to 1 in 208 in Alabama. The rate also varied by race – 1 in 127 for Latinos, 1 in 98 for blacks, and 1 in 83 for whites.
In the CDC’s initial analysis, using data from 2000, it estimated that 1 in 150 kids had some form of autism. By 2006, that figure had risen to 1 in 110.
Many are already saying that the latest estimate of 1 in 88, based on 2008 data, is concrete evidence that autism is an epidemic and that something in our environment is causing it.
“Autism is now officially becoming an epidemic in the United States,” said Mark Roithmayr, president of the advocacy group Autism Speaks.
More in the video below.
- CDC: Autism Affects 1 in 88 Children (usnews.com)
- U.S. autism rates reach new height, says Centre for Disease Control (vancouversun.com)
- Autism Rates Rise to 1 in 88, CDC Says (abcnews.go.com)