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Is the Autism Rate Going Up?

September 28 2009 | by

A pair of federally funded studies on autism rates is about to report that somewhere around one percent of all U.S. children currently have an autism spectrum disorder, according to The Huffington Post. The rate is even higher among six to 11 year olds and among boys, according to data from at least one of the new studies.

These staggering statistics were recently released by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), which is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to data from the 2007 telephone survey of parents of nearly 82,000 US children, the odds of a parent being told that their child has an ASD are one in 63. If it is a boy, the chances climb to one in 38, or 2.6 percent of all male children in America.

But there was also some surprisingly good news. Enormous numbers of children who were told that they had autism went on to shed the ASD label as they got older, parents reported.

The other study culled from data in the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring network (ADDM), which has been anticipated for quite some time. The Adventures in Autism blog reported that CDC data will show ASD prevalence rates along the lines of 100-per-10,000, or a whopping one percent of U.S. children.

One possible explanation for at least some of the increase is that ADDM researchers became more proficient at obtaining the necessary records across their analyses of the 1992, 1994 and 1996 birth cohorts.

Another plausible explanation for some, if not all of the increase, is the expansion of the ASD classification within the public schools to include not only full-blown autism, but also milder forms of ASD such as Pervasive Developmental Disorder — Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger’s Syndrome. This has long been the argument of those who do not believe that the real number of ASD cases has increased.

A third explanation could be environmental factors at play, including rising levels of toxic exposures among pregnant women, unborn children and young infants must be fully examined. This also includes vaccines, the article says.

If there is an environmental component to autism, one possible answer is the Hepatitis B vaccine, (which also contained 25 micrograms of mercury containing thimerosal). Introduced in 1991, it was the first vaccine ever given on a population basis to newborn babies (within the first three hours after delivery) in human history.

Some recent studies and Vaccine Court decisions have supported the contention that Hepatitis B vaccine can damage myelin — the nervous system’s main insulating component — at least in certain genetically susceptible adults and infants.

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  2. Time: A Q&A with Jenny McCarthy
  3. AMC Screens Movies for Autistic Kids
  4. Autistic Students Gain Confidence with Video Self-Modeling
  5. Obama to Increase Disability Spending