Apparently, prevalence of autism nearly doubled in 2014. A group of CDC researchers found that incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in kids ages 3 to 17 jumped from 1.25 percent between 2011 and 2013 to 2.24 percent in 2014.
Some people may rush to conclusions and say that either vaccines or air pollution may be to blame. Researchers, however, explained that a small tweak in the way the 2014 survey was conducted may be responsible for the staggering new figures.
In 2014, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the method of assessing prevalence of autism in children based on their parents’ reports. In a 2011-2013 survey, parents had to answer three questions.
They were asked whether their children were intellectually disabled, whether they noticed a developmental delay, and whether kids were previously diagnosed with Down syndrome, cell anemia, or other conditions.
A year later, CDC researchers decided to swap the third question with a question on whether the kids were diagnosed with ASD prior to the survey. About 10,000 parents take part in the CDC surveys every year.
The move led to near doubling ASD incidence in just a year or handful of years. The incidence of developmental disorders dropped for the same period from 4.84 percent to 3.57 percent, while intellectual disability didn’t change in the two surveys.
Paul Lipkin, head of the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s medical informatics division, explained that a simple question triggered such a huge change in results because parents and professionals alike are more “attuned to ASD and its identification at all ages.”
The latest results are consistent with three other national surveys including one from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) and one from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM). THe NSCH studyplaced autism prevalence at one in 50 kids, while the latest CDC survey also known as NHIS placed ASD incidence at 1 in 45 children.
Furthermore, the NHIS may be more accurate and less limited than other surveys because it doesn’t take into account only families with a history of autism or other developmental issues and looked for the disorder in all age groups. ADDM, on the other hand, sampled only the 8-year-olds.
The 2.24 percent prevalence is also consistent with other national reports on ASD prevalence. For instance, South Korea reported 2.64 percent prevalence amid its population. Lipkin believes that such similarities may highlight the universality of the disorder rather than differences in cultural patterns or parenting methods.
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