The Reason So Many Kids Today Have Autism​ -- Explained

autismEvery year, it seems, the CDC comes out with a new warning about the number of autism diagnoses in America. In the past few years alone, we've gone from one in 110 kids being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to one in 88 and now one in 68. So what's going on? Is it something in the air? The water? Is it pesticides or BPA?

Or is it something much simpler -- and much easier for parents to swallow? Could it just be that doctors have gotten better at diagnosing and reporting kids with autism spectrum disorders?

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That's what researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark think is happening. In a study published in JAMA Pediatrics this month, the researchers contend the hike in autism rates in that country is due in no small part to better diagnosing and reporting by doctors.

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And while they only looked at Danish kids with autism, it only stands to reason that this would translate to the diagnosing and reporting practices in other developed countries.

Here in the US, for example, studies have shown the increase in autism awareness has translated to parents taking their kids in to the doctor earlier and getting earlier diagnoses (and early intervention services that can help their kids greatly). And researchers at Stanford posited in 2011 that kids who were once being diagnosed as "mentally retarded" are now getting better -- more accurate -- diagnoses somewhere on the spectrum, meaning doctors are doing better by children.

Last year, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the Bible for clinicians released by the American Psychiatric Association), also grouped disorders once considered "separate" from autism onto the spectrum -- which had to have an affect on the number of diagnoses of kids "with autism."

It all leads parents back to the conclusion the Danish researchers made in their study: there likely aren't that many more kids with autism. There are, however, likely more kids with autism who are actually being diagnosed correctly. And that can only be a good thing in terms of getting them the services they need.

What do you make of this study? Do you think this is the reason autism is on the rise?

 

Image via © iStock.com/ktaylorg

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