Autism rate dou­bles in US to one in 45 kids

Sur­vey uses new ap­proach to as­sess fre­quency of de­vel­op­men­tal dis­or­der

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

MIAMI: Autism af­fects one in 45 chil­dren in the United States, al­most twice the rate from a few years ago, said a sur­vey yes­ter­day that uses a new ap­proach to as­sess the fre­quency of the de­vel­op­men­tal dis­or­der.

The lat­est fig­ures may re­flect a more ac­cu­rate pic­ture of autism spec­trum dis­or­der, said the re­port by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion’s (CDC) Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Sta­tis­tics, and so does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that there is a bal­loon­ing autism epi­demic.

In fact, the study found that while autism spec­trum di­ag­noses are more fre­quent than in the past, the over­all num­ber of peo­ple af­fected by neu­rode­vel­op­men­tal prob­lems has not risen, but has re­mained steady over time. “What we call an autism spec­trum dis­or­der now is a much wider group of symp­toms than what we called autism in the past so I think that cap­tures a larger num­ber of chil­dren that might have re­ceived other di­ag­noses in the past,” said Katie Wal­ton, an autism re­searcher who was not in­volved with the CDC sur­vey.

“There have been some sig­nif­i­cant changes in the way that they are ask­ing the ques­tions,” added Wal­ton, a psy­chol­o­gist at the Ohio State Univer­sity’s Nisonger Cen­ter.

The re­port found that in 2014, one in 45 chil­dren had autism spec­trum dis­or­der, or 2.24 per­cent. When the sur­vey was given in 2011-2013, one in 80 chil­dren was di­ag­nosed with ASD (1.25 per­cent).

The preva­lence of autism in the United States was just one in 5,000 in 1975, and has been ris­ing steadily in re­cent years. Autism spec­trum dis­or­der is a de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­ity that may cause a per­son to have dif­fi­culty be­hav­ing, learn­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing and in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple. It is be­lieved to be in­flu­enced by ge­netic and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, though sci­en­tists do not fully understand all its causes.

There is no known cure, but early in­ter­ven­tion in tod­dlers as young as two can some­times help. Of­fi­cials changed the or­der of the ques­tions posed in the lat­est sur­vey, com­pleted by more than 11,000 par­ents, a process that may have re­sulted in more of them ac­knowl­edg­ing a di­ag­no­sis of ASD.

“The ques­tion word­ing was ex­panded to in­clude more spe­cific de­tails on what con­sti­tuted an autism spec­trum dis­or­der,” said the re­port.

Since the United States does not main­tain na­tional health reg­istries, tele­phone sur­veys are among the ways that ex­perts as­sess the rate of autism. School and med­i­cal records have also been used to project a na­tion­wide autism rate of one in 68 chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to an­other CDC re­port is­sued in 2014.

‘No epi­demic’ Some ex­perts agree that th­ese sur­veys do not sug­gest there is a wors­en­ing epi­demic of autism in the United States.

A study out ear­lier this year led by Santhosh Giri­ra­jan, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of bio­chem­istry and molec­u­lar bi­ol­ogy and of an­thro­pol­ogy at Penn State, found that the ris­ing rate of autism seen in re­cent years re­sulted from re­clas­si­fy­ing in­di­vid­u­als with re­lated neu­ro­log­i­cal disorders.

His study an­a­lyzed 11 years of spe­cial-ed­u­ca­tion en­roll­ment data on an av­er­age of 6.2 mil­lion chil­dren per year, and found “no over­all in­crease in the num­ber of stu­dents en­rolled in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion.” Asked for com­ment on Fri­day’s fig­ures, he told AFP that the CDC’s lat­est ap­proach is an im­prove­ment.

“When peo­ple say (there is an) epi­demic of autism, I am not really sure,” he said. “It is true that they are iden­ti­fy­ing more in­di­vid­u­als with autism be­cause autism is oc­cur­ring with other disorders,” he added.

Bet­ter di­ag­noses-and im­proved strate­gies for es­ti­mat­ing preva­lence-may be use­ful to par­ents who want to get im­proved treat­ment for their chil­dren at an early age, added Wal­ton. “I think peo­ple should understand that autism is a rel­a­tively com­mon con­di­tion at this point and if you are con­cerned about your child... there are an in­creas­ing num­ber of ser­vices out there,” she said. —AFP

RENNES: Demon­stra­tors lay on the ground in front of the en­trance to a so­cial se­cu­rity build­ing with protest posters in Rennes yes­ter­day dur­ing a demonstration by doc­tors and health pro­fes­sion­als against a health bill. — AFP

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