CDC: US Autism rates increasing

A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that one in 68 US children has received a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. The figures represent a 29 percent increase from two years ago. The increase likely means that more cases are being discovered due to heightened awareness.

The New York Times points out that the CDC’s “report – based not on direct diagnoses but on a review of records – was not nationally representative and drew on data gathered three years before a significant tightening in the clinical definition of autism.”

The Wall Street Journal quotes Coleen Boyle, who directs the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Boyle stated that “there’s a better understanding of autism spectrum disorder and the fact that it can occur in children that are higher functioning.”

USA Today reports that the “driver” behind the increase in autism cases remains unknown. “Many experts believe the rise is largely due to better awareness and diagnosis rather than a true increase in the number of children with the condition.” The CDC’s Boyle said, “We don’t know the extent those factors explain in terms of the increase, but we clearly know they do play a role.”

The Los Angeles Times “Science Now” blog reports that the analysis released in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report “was based on data collected in 2010 from 11 surveillance areas around the country, including ones in Maryland, Wisconsin, Arizona and Colorado.”

Those surveillance areas represent approximately nine percent of the US population.

The analysis also found that Alabama’s autism rate of one in 175 was the lowest and that New Jersey’s rate of one in 45 was the highest.

According to the Washington Post “To Your Health” blog, “As in previous reports, the diagnosis is much more common in boys (one in 42) than girls (one in 189), and much more frequently found in whites than blacks or Hispanics.”

The Post adds, “Boyle said the racial disparity is most likely due to better reporting of the disorder in whites.”

The AP reports, “One change CDC officials had hoped to see, but didn’t, was a drop in the age of diagnosis.”

According to experts, “a diagnosis can now be made at age two or even earlier.” Yesterday’s report, however, found that most children do not receive a diagnosis of autism until after their fourth birthday.
Boyle stated, “We know the earlier a child is identified and connected with services, the better.”

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