Two new government studies released today reports that autism
spectrum disorders - ranging from high-functioning Asperger's to
severe autism - affect 1 in 100 U.S. children. That's up from
1 in 150.
This is very much a "what" study, not a "why? or a "how?" one.
The AP reports:
Greater awareness, broader definitions and spotting autism in
younger children may explain some of the increase, federal health
''The concern here is that buried in these numbers is a true
increase,'' said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National
Institute of Mental Health. ''We're going to have to think very
hard about what we're going to do for the 1 in 100.''
In one study, compiled from the 2007 National Survey of
Children's Health, parents reported 1 in 91 children having autism.
The other study, conducted by the CDC, hasn't been formally
released yet but puts the figure around 1 in 100.
Autism continues to baffle doctors, alarm parents and muddy the
waters of everyday parenting decisions: What's normal behavior?
What's cause for concern? Should I vaccinate my child? Should I be
worried about mercury (which, in high doses, is thought to be an
environmental "trigger" for autism)?
Aside from the developmental effects, isn't the scariest thing
about autism the uncertainty? There are many serious disorders that
occur with alarming (though admittedly lower) frequency -- cerebral
palsy (1 in 278), Down Syndrome (1 in
800), deafness (1 in 1000) -- but isn't it the clouds
surrounding autism, the scientific puzzles and worried buzz in
parenting circles, that makes autism stand out?
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