One in 50 Kids Now Have Autism

Say What!? 38

FlickrIf you're not already completely freaked out by the number of kids diagnosed with autism, get ready -- the latest numbers are out today and one in 50 school-aged children have autism.

Last year, it was one in 88. People. What is going on?

I really don't understand why the general public is not absolutely up in arms over these rising numbers. One. In. Fifty. This is not okay!

According to USA Today, the numbers are higher because of different counting methods:

The study looked at children ages 6-17 and was based on parent reports, while last year's study looked at 8-year-olds whose diagnosis was noted in school district or other official records.

But experts also say that this study proves we're going to need a lot more autism services for kids than we thought.

Another interesting aspect of the survey is that boys are four times as likely as girls to have autism.

And some experts say that autism in kids hasn't actually increased. What's really changed is that we've gotten better at diagnosing it.

I'm tired of hearing this line, though. Look around you. Is it not COMPLETELY OBVIOUS that autism is on the rise? I have so many friends who have kids with autism -- I think back to when I was a child and I can't remember knowing many children at all with autism, or even kids who had symptoms that would possibly indicate autism. Even more telling to me anecdotally is the fact that my mother was a special education teacher when I was growing up and had hardly any kids with autism or symptoms that might now be indicators of autism. A few years ago, she volunteered in her church nursery and was astounded at the number of children with autism. The church even had a special volunteer effort so that each child with autism would have his/her own helper during the service. This is just one small example of what I'm sure many of you are seeing around you.

People don't like the use of the word "epidemic," but that's exactly what I'm calling it. Autism is an epidemic, and it needs to be treated like one. We need more funding for research and treatment and services -- and we need to figure out what's causing it. Like, NOW.

What do you think about these new numbers? Are you as bothered by them as I am?


Image via Beverly & Pack/Flickr



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nonmember avatar ss

Please note that the definition of autism has changed considerably... become more inclusive of all of the spectrum of autism disorders... over the past two decades. Also, in the current environment of hysteria regarding autism and false information regarding the causes of autism, parent reports of autism are not to be trusted. The study was poorly designed. We should be more concerned about communicable diseases like influenza and childhood diarrhea, which kills millions of children each year.

nonmember avatar Cass

No, it's not completely obvious that autism is on the rise. Our diagnostic criteria aren't concrete yet, and we're constantly widening them to include more kids. There probably is some environmental and genetic component- but lets not pretend that every kid diagnosed with autism actually has autism.

nonmember avatar Leslie

You said it exactly right- 1 in 50 children is an epidemic!!! What the F***, for numbers like that for anything else, there are major efforts- and enough is not being done to help children/adults with autism. We are utterly unprepared. And, why is more research money not going into this?? It's worse then heart disease and a myriad of other things. we are talking 1 out of 50- it's crazy. And, the "not identified it back in the day" argument is a ton of bullshit. As you've said, as a kid, I didn't know anyone that exhibited any symptoms that could be considered autistic, not in my whole elementary school. There are some kids, who in retrospect probably had aspergers, but not kids with behaviors presenting as autism.

nonmember avatar Leslie

Wow Cass and ss- what planet do you live on? It is completely obvious that autism is on the rise. How many people or families do you know with autism now? How many did you know as a child (or know of)- probably 0-1. Autism is a spectrum disorder and while one kid might present as inappropriate and quirky, another kid is nonverbal and not potty trained at ten years old, and everything in between. However, 1 in 88 is astounding- and 1 in 50 is even crazier. Autism is also diagnosed based on symptoms presented, there is no test, so it is possible that there are other disorders caught up in it, but since we don't know what causes it, we can't say.

Kevin Wirth

Whether autism really is on the rise or not, the fact that so many kids are now being diagnosed with this condition DOES indicate a need for more attention on the matter. While death by influenza and other diseases is also important, that does not mean we should simply have everyone divert our full attention to life-threatening diseases and issues and ignore the needs of autistic kids. The quality of life for kids who continue to live is also important and should not be shoved aside. Lindsay, what I think you need to do is create an action plan to address this issue more comprehensively and give it the attention you think it deserves. Don't give up and don't listen to any nay sayers - I wish you the best as you succeed in your efforts.

Vegeta Vegeta

Epidemic makes it sound like a plague outbreak. A lot of my friends, my brother and I have autism and we're perfectly fine. Find out the causes, yes. But relax its not the end of the world if you have it.

tinyk... tinykitty

While I agree it's on the rise, the fact that the data comes from parental reports versus official records makes the numbers suspect.

nonmember avatar Chanandler Bong

This study also shows that 15 to 20% of the kids diagnosed with autism lose their diagnoses, so we can count those kids out as ever having had true autism. It also is based on the old criteria for autism, as the DSM V rolls out in May of this year, and from that, 9 percent of kids who currently have a diagnosis will lose it. This isn't exactly the most scientific study, but it did accomplish what it set out to do: create hysteria surrounding this disability, as well as get people talking about autism, conveniently, right before Autism Awareness month in April.

MyPic... MyPicketFence

Leslie, Aspergers IS on the autism spectrum.  Those kids are now listed as having autism.  I can think of PLENTY of kids in elementary, middle and high school that would fall into the very broad autism spectrum we now have.  I think our methods of diagnosing this have gotten much better, and that is where the "increase" is showing.  Do these kids need extra help?  In a lot of cases, yes.  But most kids on the lower end of the spectrum just experience some social awkwardness as it is harder for them to pick up on those queues.  Lots of people I work with even now are probably on the spectrum, and certainly not diagnosed.  They just interact with people differently.

Caera Caera

Autism isn't an epidemic. What's epidemic is parents' incredible need to have something to blame for their child's less-than-perfect behavior, and a whole mess of doctors who are trying to pay bills who will say anything mom and dad want to hear, if it means getting to submit that invoice.

I have NO DOUBT autism is a problem for many, many families. But it's not 1 in 50.

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