Autism Affects 1 out of 88 Kids in U.S.; ‘Autism Epidemic?’

[ 0 ] March 30, 2012 |

What is autism? Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism refer to a number of brain development disorders and are characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behavior. CDC says more kids than ever are being diagnosed.

Autism affects one out of 88 children in the U.S., according to the latest estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC previously put that average at about 1 in 110 kids in this country, but the boost of 25 percent more means that more than 1 million children and teens are affected; some attribute the spike to better autism screenings. Previous studies have also said children with older siblings diagnosed with autism are more likely to also have a disorder on the autism spectrum than children who don’t have a history of autism in their family.

“One thing the data tells us with certainty – there are many children and families who need help,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. “We must continue to track autism spectrum disorders because this is the information communities need to guide improvements in services to help children.”

Having a child with autism can often be a stressful experience for both parent and child if the elder doesn’t fully understand how to interact with, or best help, their child and his or her development given this very special set of circumstances.

For Sarah Maizes, writer, comedian, founder of MommyLiteOnline.comauthor of Got Milf?, and whose writings have appeared on Autisable.com (a web site for parents of autistic children), she views parenting her 11-year-old autistic daughter, Izzy, as a learning experience – for mom, that is – in how to help her child thrive, and stresses that parents striving for perfection will most likely be disappointed.

“I never looked for perfection in my children – ANY of them,” says Maizes, who also has eight-year-old twins. “Perfection is a myth perpetuated by other parents to make you feel inadequate. You should no more believe somebody else has a perfect child than you should believe they poop roses. It just doesn’t happen. To anyone. Ever.”

Other findings of the CDC study include:

  • ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).
  • The largest increases over time were among Hispanic children (110%) and black children (91%). We suspect that some of this increase is due to greater awareness and better identification among these groups. However, this finding explains only part of the increase over time, as more children are being identified in all groups.
  • There were increases over time among children without intellectual disability (those having IQ scores above 70), although there were also increases in the estimated prevalence of ASDs at all levels of intellectual ability.
  • More children are being diagnosed at earlier ages—a growing number of them by age 3. Still, most children are not diagnosed until after they reach age 4, even though early identification and intervention can help a child access services and learn new skills. This is why CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. program is essential. Through this program, CDC provides free tools to help parents track their child’s development and free resources for doctors and educators. CDC is also working with states and communities to improve early identification.

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a number of  disorders of brain development and are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. Intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances, can be symptoms of autism, as well as a particular proficiency in certain visual skills, music, math and art. The most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age.

Autism Speaks, which calls the news more proof of an “autism epidemic,” notes that the annual cost of autism in the United States is a staggering $126 billion annually, more than tripling the cost analysis from six years ago. The organization is calling for a national strategy, which, they say, should include:

  • Funds more basic science uncovering the genetic underpinnings of autism.
  • Funds more environmental research detecting the causes of autism.
  • Accelerates the funding and development of effective medicines and treatments.
  • Commits to a strategy where all children with autism from every background are diagnosed no later than 18 months of age.
  • Commits to a National Training Corps recruiting more therapists and service providers as well as specially trained teachers and teacher assistants into the field.
  • We also need to address the growing issue of adults with autism specifically around continuing education, employment, housing/residential living and community integration. Here too, we need a focus on a National Training Corps to recruit and train professionals to work with our adults.
  • Funds more basic science uncovering the genetic underpinnings of autism.
  • Funds more environmental research detecting the causes of autism.
  • Accelerates the funding and development of effective medicines and treatments.
  • Commits to a strategy where all children with autism from every background are diagnosed no later than 18 months of age.
  • Commits to a National Training Corps recruiting more therapists and service providers as well as specially trained teachers and teacher assistants into the field.
  • We also need to address the growing issue of adults with autism specifically around continuing education, employment, housing/residential living and community integration. Here too, we need a focus on a National Training Corps to recruit and train professionals to work with our adults.

Tell us: Do you have a child, niece or nephew, granddaughter or grandson, with autism? How has it affected your life, and what has that child taught you on this journey?

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Category: Health, Views on the News

Thomas Frieden

About Thomas Frieden: Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, became Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June 2009. Dr. Frieden has worked to control health threats from infectious diseases, respond to emergencies, and battle the [...]
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