Monday, October 5, 2009

Autism steadily rising

A new study reports that one in every 91 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with some developmental disorder on the autism spectrum -- a 50 percent increase in what was previously estimated. The report, published in the October issue of the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal, Pediatrics, also shows that the rate for boys is up at a startling 1 in 58.

Why the sudden spike?

Is it an increase in parent/doctor awareness? A growth in the span of the autism spectrum? Vaccines? Toxic waste exposure? Diet? Even after the countless hours of research, studies and media coverage, there still isn't a definitive cause for autism. The only thing for sure is that more cases are being reported.

Some question the accuracy of this statistic, especially since the study relies solely on verbal interviews with parents and children, not doctors. Also, there isn't a biological marker for who is and who isn't autistic. It can't be traced in blood or urine. There are no physical marks. The only way a child can be diagnosed is by observing how he/she behaves. Are we too quick to label a difficult child as autistic?

Despite this, testimony from 78,000 parents is hard to ignore.

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