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Survey Finds Autism Rates Higher Than Previously Thought

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, October 05, 2009 10:48 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Autism, Thimerosal, Vaccines, Pediatrics

Autism rates may be higher than previously thought while the cause remains a mystery.


Phone Survey Finds Higher Rates

Does anyone really understand how many children have autism in the U.S.?

After the latest survey of parents by the federal government, the answer is no.

In 2003 autism rates were determined to be 0.57 or percent of children.

Now researchers estimate one in 91 children or 1.1 percent has received an autism diagnosis, according to a parent survey of more than 78,000 children as part of the National Survey of Children’s Health.

The survey is published in today’s Pediatrics.

38 percent of parents responding were told their child had recovered from autism but those numbers were not included in the 1.1 percent.

Whether this signals an overdiagnosis or more cases of autism is unclear.

The survey is confusing doctors, many of whom believe some “recovered” cases of autism never really had the disease.

"We either have to change our assumption and consider that autism might be a temporary state in some cases, especially mild cases, or else challenge whether these are true cases of autism," said Dr. L. Eugene Arnold, a professor emeritus of Psychiatry at Ohio State University. "I favor the former course."

Rebecca Estepp, of the Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) says even if there has been a change in diagnosis, the study proves autism is real. “You can’t have a genetic epidemic” she tells ABC News. “There are environmental factors in play.”

The latest phone survey echoes what previous studies have found – that boys are four times more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls, whites are more affected than African-Americans, and shows there are many more families struggling with a child with autism than was previously understood.

Rita Sheffler, a mother of a child with autism and a member of the National Autism Association says “We need more funding and research and need it right away. If children don’t receive appropriate treatments [at a young age], there aren’t enough facilities for adults and society is not prepared if they do not find meaningful treatments.”

Earlier this year, the National Institute of Mental Health received $85 million toward autism research.

Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician and author of “Baby 411” tells ABC News that most of the risk factors occur before a baby is born and that’s where research will find answers.

"We know there are certain genetic defects and chromosomal defects with huge incidence of autism spectrum disorders. We need to be looking at prenatal risk factors and exposures," she said. "I believe the 'hit' to a child's neurodevelopment happens before conception, at conception or shortly afterwards -- that's where the money is."

Diagnosis Autism

While there is no known cause of autism, Dr. Richard Besser of ABC news reports that pregnant women should not receive the nasal swine flu spray as it contains the live swine flu virus.

Pediatricians should be gauging a child’s milestones according to the developmental milestones. Even at three months, children should be able to establish eye contact. Find the milestones listed on the CDC Web site. #

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