Are cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder actually increasing?
Recent findings from the Center for Disease Control (2007) reports that 1 out of every 150 children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). For decades until as recently as 1997, the best estimate for the prevalence of ASD was 1 in every 2,000 children with more recent studies in 2000 and 2002 showing prevalence ranging from 1 in 500 to 1 in 166 children.
Discuss whether you think this psychological disorder is actually increasing at such an alarming rate in our children. Why might this be occurring? What other factors could there be that provide some explanation to this massive increase in prevalence rates of ASD in children?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a genetic disorder that affects the neurological processes responsible for developing language, personal relationships and interactions, social awareness, and external comprehension. It is classified as a spectrum disorder because it can affect individuals across a broad range of symptoms and intellectual impairment. In recent years, the apparent incidence of autism cases has risen; more children are diagnosed with autism than before.
While it may seem like something is causing an actual increase in autism since the CDC reports a 78 percent increase -- that is, an increase in the factors that affect genetic changes influencing autism -- it is may be that diagnosis procedures are become more refined and disorders that may have been diagnosed in other ways are being identified as inside the autism spectrum. This possibility has prompted a recent change to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
A 2003 study by H. Jick and J.A. Kaye found that as diagnoses of autism increased, diagnoses of similar disorders decreased, indicating that those disorders are now being identified as autism; earlier, they would have been diagnosed as other disorders, meaning that the incidence of autism would seem to be lower. A similar 2008 study found that adults who had been diagnosed with various language disorders tested higher on the new and improved autism spectrum tests; these adults would have been diagnosed with autism had they been growing up today. This might mean that the actual incidence of autism is stable, but accurate diagnoses are increasing.
The most recent 2012 Danish research shows a strong correlation between flu and untreated fever in mothers and autism in children. The CDC says this research is in the "exploratory" stages but encourages pregnant women to treat fevers. While studies are continuing, scientific consensus at the moment is that current autism diagnoses are not a rising disease caused by some specific external factor, although autism is the expression of "a number of different genes, along with multiple epigenetic and environmental factors that interact," but rather represent a change in diagnostic factors, though, as the Danish study shows, this is being debated within scientific circles.