One in every 100 U.S. children has an autism disorder, according to new data released on December 18, 2009 from the Autism Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. That’s approximately 1 percent of all 8-year-olds in this country.
The CDC defines autism to be a set of incurable conditions that include autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and certain pervasive development disorders. Autism is a complex neuro-developmental disorder defined by impaired social interaction, communication deficits, restricted interests and repetitive behavioral patterns. Those on the autism spectrum range from mild symptoms to severe inability to communicate.
The rise was driven partly by better detection of the brain disorder but did not rule out an increased risk for developing symptoms. Catherine Rice, the lead author of the CDC study, said one factor for the increased diagnoses was “better detection, particularly among children who may not have come to attention in the past, including girls, Hispanic children, and children with cognitive impairment.”
Diagnoses among Hispanic children rose 90 percent and African American children rose 41 percent since the previous CDC study conducted in 2006. The recent report reflects past trends with boys being diagnosed four to five times over girls.
A previous study conducted in 2002 by the CDC found that one in every 150 U.S. children fell on the spectrum.
While we can applaud better screening efforts and overall understanding of the disorder (these new figures represent a 600 percent increase in diagnosis over the last 20 years), the report underlies the belief that prevalence is also increasing sharply. Therefore, these increasing numbers mark yet another portent for discovering the causes behind autism, leaving many groups who believe there is a strong environmental component to autism—specifically a link to the vaccines containing mercury from Thimersol—another opportunity to fan their repeatedly disproven flames.
Concluded that autism should be considered an urgent public health concern. Philip Levy, president of YAI Network, a disabilities-focused non-profit, said that autism is,“ a continuing national crisis.”
Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, called on the federal government via a press release to immediately step up its efforts—and dramatically increase funding—to address the growing national autism public health crisis. It is only by taking these steps that we can reverse the tide of increased cases of autism in the United States.