Study: Autism on the Rise Among US Children

Christopher Astacio reads with his daughter Cristina, 2, who was recently diagnosed with a mild form of autism, New York, March 28, 2012.
Christopher Astacio reads with his daughter Cristina, 2, who was recently diagnosed with a mild form of autism, New York, March 28, 2012.
Jessica Berman

The number of American children diagnosed with autism has been increasing steadily -- from one-in-110 youngsters in 2006 to one-in-88 in 2008. The findings are based on a new study by the U.S. government that looked at the prevalence of autism, a developmental disorder that usually appears in the first few years of life and affects brain development and communication skills.

Autism shows up as a range of behaviors. Some children have a mild version, called Asperger’s syndrome, that makes them seem awkward in social settings. Others are severely affected, with extreme social and communication difficulties marked by repetitive behaviors and withdrawal from contact with other people.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, in Atlanta, assessed surveillance data about 8-year-old children from fourteen states that was collected in 2008. It found that for every 1,000 children, more than 11 were diagnosed with autism. According to the CDC, almost five times as many boys were affected -- 1 in 54.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden says the increase in reported autism cases might be due to improved recognition of the disorder.

"Doctors have gotten better at diagnosing the condition," said Frieden. "Communities have gotten better at providing services, so at this point I think there is the possibility of that the increase in identification is entirely the result of better detection."

Because autism usually appears in the first three years of life, the CDC is calling for early and frequent screenings of children, beginning at 18 months of age, and again at 24 and 30 months of age.

Susan Hayman, who heads the autism subcommittee of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said waiting until a child is 4 years old to be evaluated for autism is too late, because early therapeutic intervention can help affected children learn to lead relatively normal lives.

“Children who aren’t pointing, who aren’t making eye contact with communication may have autism, but they may have other things," said Hayman, explaining that parents should immediately seek diagnosis if they notice certain behaviors in toddlers. "It’s important for parents who have concerns to bring them up."

The leading autism advocacy group in the United States, Autism Speaks, has said the developmental disorder knows no boundaries, and the group estimates about 67-million people around the world are affected by autism.

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Comment Sorting
by: maharet
April 10, 2012 7:24 AM
Correlation is not causation. Anti-vaxxers, I'm looking at you and the numerous studies which consistently disprove and discredit the original hypothesis.
Nor is overdiagnosis of an illness which may in fact be lazy parenting or the awkward end of the normal personality quirk range.

by: Hasan Ekim
April 02, 2012 9:49 PM
I have an autistic child, ten years old.He has learned English at beginner level. When he has seen an American tourist, he says hello, well come to Turkey. He had read Obama's article related to autism in VOA and he made a research related to Obama in internet. He asked me, Is this man our relatives?

by: SnowballSolarSystem
March 29, 2012 1:27 PM
CDC: 78% increase in autism rates since 2002

If we're looking for a change in this time frame, perhaps we ought to examine the secret surveillance program rolled out in 1999 for tracking sex offenders by scanning pedestrians from aircraft using Synthetic Aperture Radar (weather radar) and acoustic imaging.

Perhaps either the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) microwaves or the acoustic camera ultrasonics are damaging to neural development of toddlers.
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