Expert: 'Rise' in Autism in America Likely Due to Better, More Prevalent Diagnostics

The estimated number of children in the U.S. with some type of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has swelled by 78 percent since 2000, according to a report released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 88 American children has autism, according to the new figures, and among boys, it’s one in 54.

Pitch

The estimated number of children in the U.S. with some type of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has swelled by 78 percent since 2000, according to a report released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 88 American children has autism, according to the new figures, and among boys, it’s one in 54.

 

Expert

David Richman, professor and chair of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research, (806) 742-1998 ext. 458, d.richman@ttu.edu.

 

Talking Points 

  • Many children who would have been diagnosed with an intellectual disability 20 years ago are now receiving a diagnosis of ASD.
  • Most of the reasons have nothing to do with scientific understanding of the diagnostic requirements for ASD. Part of the push for the proposed changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is to reduce the number of false positive indicators for a diagnosis of ASD.

 

Quotes 

  • “I don’t think there is dramatic rise in the actual incidence or prevalence of autism, but no one really knows.”
  • “Some of the reasons may be increased awareness of signs of autism; more clinicians trained to make the diagnosis, and widely disseminated ASD screeners and diagnostic instruments that can be used in a rote fashion without really understanding the child’s symptoms and how they impact the child’s quality of life.”
  • “Other reasons may be increased access to certain sources of funding to pay for therapies/services with an ASD diagnosis as opposed to mental retardation/intellectual disability; a slow and inadvertent widening of the characteristics clinicians think are symptoms of autism; and probably many more variables we have not identified yet.”
  • “It really is a mess and no one knows exactly how to clean it up yet.”