Is Autism Really On the Rise?

www.cdc.gov

www.cdc.gov

Two new interesting studies have come out – one focused on the rate of autism and the other on a possible hormone that is linked with social difficulties.

The rate of autism has been continuously increasing over the years, with the latest figures showing that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. The rate increase hasn’t been attributed to anything specifically, and questions are mounting as to what has caused the increase. A new study, however, may have provided an answer – the rate is likely due to a change in the way children are being classified and diagnosed. A team from Penn State University looked at special education enrollment and found that the increase in students designated as having autism could be offset by nearly equal decrease in students diagnosed with other intellectual disabilities often seen along with autism. So conditions that were once likely classified as something else are now being identified as autism, probably due to broader awareness.

Another study showed that children with autism who struggle with “theory of mind” – the social skills that deals with the realization that other people have different perspectives, feelings and experiences – have lower vasopressin levels. Vasopressin is a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure and may play a role in social behavior. There are currently no medications that effectively treat social deficits, so this could prove a target for future focus.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Autism Rate Rises to 1 in 68

1in68The CDC now reports that the number of U.S. children with autism has soared to 1 in 68 – this is a 30% increase since it had estimated that 1 in 88 children have the disorder only two years ago.

To get this estimate, they looked at records in 2010 for 8-year-olds in 11 states. Through their research they also saw an increase in the number of children with higher IQs who fall on the autism spectrum – and a wide range of results depending on where they live (for example, only 1 in 175 was diagnosed with autism in Alabama, while 1 in 45 was diagnosed in New Jersey).

Why the big jump? No one can say for sure, but it could be due the growing awareness of autism and better identification of it in children.

And, also eye-opening, as noted in this NPR article, a 2011 study found that in South Korea, 1 in 38 children met the criteria for autism – and the U.S. is now on pace to reach the same conclusion within a few years.

Lynsey, Community Manager