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  • Is Autism Becoming More Prevalent?

Is Autism Becoming More Prevalent?

May 29 2018 Read 1021 Times

From Wolfgang Mozart to Andy Warhol, autism spectrum disorder has created its fair share of legends. That said, the developmental disorder can also cause a host of problems for both children and adults. Now, a new report issued by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that autism (ASD) rates in America have hit an all-time high. While previous findings suggested figures have stabilised, CDC experts claim that the number of US children on the spectrum has increased by 15% over the past two years. So, what's causing ASD diagnosis to climb?

An enhanced understanding of ASD

Just over a decade ago little was known about autism, a developmental condition that can affect how a child communicates with others, as well as how they experience and interpret their surroundings. While the exact causes are still unclear, experts muse that the disorder could be linked to genes or an excess of nerve connections in the brain.

Over the past 10 years there's been an ASD renaissance, spanning from increased awareness to improved diagnosis. The latest CDC report, which sourced data from 11 regional Autism Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) sites, reflects the movement. Researchers found that one in 59 8-year-old children were diagnosed with ASD, a figure that marks a significant increase from the one in 68 statistic issued by the previous report. Historically, ASD is more common among boys than girls, which was once again confirmed in the report.

Interestingly, researchers noted that the diagnosis gap between racial and ethnic groups is closing. In the past ASD diagnosis was between 20 and 30% higher among white children. Now, the disparity has shrunk to 7%.

Improved diagnostic techniques

While the study doesn't offer insight into what's causing the spike in ASD cases, it does suggest that diagnostic techniques are continually improving. This means that children on the spectrum whose symptoms would have previously flown under the radar are now being diagnosed.

“Autism is not a bad thing, and autistic people – of all ages, races, and genders – have always been here,” comments Zoe Gross from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. “What the CDC’s research shows is that our data is catching up to that fact.”

So, while statistics suggest that autism is on the rise, the trend is actually powered by medical improvements that improve diagnosis and ensure that children on the spectrum receive the support they need.

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