Autism rate soaring among US schoolchildren, reports CDC

By Robin Wulffson MD on March 20, 2013 – 2:29pm for eMaxHealth
Autism Child Health and Safety Current News

According to a new survey released on March 20 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 50 U.S. schoolchildren have autism, surpassing a previous federal estimate for the disorder. The 1 in 50 rate mean at least 1 million children have autism.

The CDC notes that the new statistics do not mean autism is occurring more often; rather, it suggests that doctors are diagnosing autism more frequently, especially in children with milder problems. A previous CDC report estimated that 1 in 88 schoolchildren were autistic; however, that study had a more rigorous definition of the disorder and reviewed medical and school records. The new study is based on a national phone survey of parents. For decades, the definition of autism comprised children with severe language, intellectual difficulties, social impairments, and unusual, repetitious behaviors. However, the definition has gradually expanded and now includes milder, related conditions.

The new statistics are important because government officials look at how common each illness or disorder is when weighing how to spend limited public health funds. The new numbers are derived from a national phone survey of more than 95,000 parents in 2011 and 2012. CDC officials noted that less than 25% of the parents contacted agreed to answer questions; therefore, it is likely that those with autistic children were more interested than other parents in participating in a survey on children’s health. Despite that, the government officials believe that the survey provides a valid snapshot of how many families are affected by autism, explained Stephen Blumberg, the CDC report’s lead author.
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