Experts estimate that roughly 1 in 150 children has autism spectrum disorder, but a new study suggests that that number is closer to 1 in 91.
The government study examined data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, a group of 78,000 children between the ages of 3 and 17.
What they found was that 1,142 of those children had received a diagnosis of autism at some point in their childhood — 494 mild, 320 moderate, and 90 severe. Nearly 500 of the children no longer carried the diagnosis.
While the increase in numbers may seem alarming, experts say that it’s likely due to a higher awareness, better diagnostic tools, and more testing.
What stumps researchers is that group of 499 kids who no longer carry the diagnosis. They aren’t sure whether they were misdiagnosed to begin with, or if early intervention services helps children with mild cases overcome their symptoms.
Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, an advocacy groups that says there’s growing evidence that autism affects 1 percent of the population, says on the group’s website that these numbers should spur a call to action.
“These new numbers should serve as a renewed call to action to take on what is clearly a major public health crisis not only in this country, but around the world. People with autism are still not getting the therapies they need and adequate medical care for the medical conditions often associated with this disorder….We must act now to address these short and long-term challenges.”
Studies have shown that boys appear to be more at risk than girls, and that white children are diagnosed with the disorder at a higher rate than black and multi-racial children, according to Healthday.
Photo: Jeff Kubina, Flickr