Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
A rising number of schoolchildren are receiving diagnoses of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new data from the National Center for Health Statistics has found, but the findings don’t necessarily reflect a rise in the prevalence of autism. Two percent of U.S. schoolkids, or about 1 million children, report having received autism diagnoses. More from NBC News:
It’s a large increase since the last report but experts stress it doesn’t necessarily mean more children are developing autism.
Instead, the numbers suggests that more children are being diagnosed as they get older – probably because of many factors, including increased awareness and more services both to diagnose children and help them, the researchers said.
“Our findings suggest that the increase in prevalence may be due to increased recognition of autism spectrum disorders in recent years, especially when the symptoms were mild,” Stephen Blumberg of the National Center for Health Statistics, which published the report, said in a telephone interview.
“Parents are more aware. Professionals are more aware. There may be more access to diagnostic services.”
Autism describes a range of conditions and disorders – some of which a few years ago were not even recognized as conditions. It can range from the very mild social awkwardness seen in some cases of Asperger’s syndrome, to severe and debilitating symptoms that prevent children from interacting in a normal way, prevent learning and often require medication. Some children with autism were classified as mentally retarded in years past, while others struggled quietly with no idea they could benefit from therapy.
Parents should not worry that something new has been happening to kids, says Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is monitoring autism in several ways. “We don’t want them to be frightened by the numbers. We want them to recognize that there are things they can do that make a difference in their child’s life,” she said.
Image: School girl, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, April 8th, 2013
A new program at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is trying to help take the anxiety out of air travel for families traveling with children who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The program lets families come to the airport for a “dry run” that enables kids to see what will happen before travel day, taking the surprise element out of the complicated and potentially overwhelming experience of flying. More from Minneapolis’ KARE- 11 News:
“(They) really try to get over the sensory issues they’ll face like this, and hopefully have a good experience, and then when they do fly, they’ve already been through this,” said Dawn Brasch, with the Autism Society of Minnesota.
Volunteers lead the families through every step in the airport process, from security, to finding their way through the crowds, and even practicing the boarding process and finding their seats on a plane.
“Instead of doing it for the first time when there’s already added stress of going on vacation, it’s just like doing it again,” Nielsen said.
The Autism Society says it’s a helpful lesson not only for families, but for airport workers too.
“They don’t have the physical attributes of autism, you can’t just see it, so you don’t necessarily know when somebody’s coming through and they’re having a difficult time,” Brasch said.
Image: Mother and child at airport, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, April 1st, 2013
April has been National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s, and Parents News Now will be marking the month with regular posts covering autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and its effects on families, schools, scientists, and communities alike. Last year, the month began with the startling news that 1 in 88 American children had an ASD diagnosis. Just a few weeks ago, new information was released, putting that number closer to 1 in 50 children diagnosed with autism.
Other recent news items on autism include:
Be sure to check back for posts tagged “Autism Awareness Month” throughout April, and feel free to email me at ParentsNewsNow@gmail.com with autism stories in your community that you think Parents.com’s readers should know about.
Image: Autism awareness ribbon, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Friday, March 29th, 2013
Another study, this one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has found no connection between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This is the latest in a series of research studies that followed a highly controversial 1998 report in the British journal The Lancet, which alleged a causal link between vaccines and ASD. That article was recanted in 2010. More on the new CDC study from NBC News:
In the first six months of life, children receive as many as 19 vaccine doses of six different vaccines, and by the time they are 6 years old, a total of 25 doses from 10 vaccines.
In a 2011 survey, about a third of parents expressed concerns that their child received too many vaccines before age 2, and too many vaccines on a single day.
Previous studies have found no link between the number of vaccines a child receives and their risk of several neurological conditions (though these studies did not specifically consider autism).
The new study went a step further by looking at the link between a child’s total exposure to antigens — the proteins in vaccines that stimulate the body’s immune system — and his or her risk of autism.
The researchers looked at total antigen exposure rather than the total number of vaccines kids received because, at the root of parents’ concerns is the idea that “somehow they provide too much immunological stimulation, more so than a young child’s immune system can handle,” said study researcher Dr. Frank DeStefano, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The sheer number of vaccines would not be as good a measure of immunological response because vaccines contain different numbers of antigens, and some protect against more than one disease, DeStefano said.)
DeStefano and colleagues analyzed information from about 250 children with autism and 750 children without autism, born between 1994 and 1999.
Children with autism were exposed to about same total number of antigens as children without autism at ages 3 months, 7 months and 2 years. There was also no difference between the two groups in terms of the total number of antigens they were exposed to on a single day.
“Parental concerns that their children are receiving too many vaccines in the first two years of life, or too many vaccines at a single doctor visit are not supported in terms of an increased risk of autism,” the researchers write in the March 29 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.
Previous CDC research has shown that most U.S. children–as high as 95 percent–still receive vaccines on the recommended schedule. In 2011, a study from the Institutes of Medicine also found no causal link between autism and vaccines.
Image: Baby receiving vaccine, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
The latest statistics on the number of U.S. children affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD) shows a rise even from last year, with 1 in 50 school-aged children affected. The numbers come from the National Center for Health Statistics, and they are even more alarming than the data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control, which estimated 1 in 88 U.S. kids to have autism. USA Today has more on the new information, as researchers ponder whether the data reflects rising autism occurrence, or better diagnostic tools:
The present study asked 100,000 parents across the country a range of health questions, including whether their child had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and whether he or she currently had the diagnosis. The autism spectrum includes autism, the most severe form, as well as Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
The study looked at children ages 6-17 and was based on parent reports, while last year’s study looked at 8-year-olds whose diagnosis was noted in school district or other official records.
The fact that the new study found such high rates implies that “there will likely be more demand for (autism-related) services than we had previously thought,” said study author Stephen J. Blumberg, a senior scientist at the National Center for Health Statistics.
The new study, like most others, found that boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls.
The parents’ answers to the two survey questions also suggests that 15% to 20% of children who were once diagnosed with autism no longer have the condition. Blumberg said the study cannot say whether they lost the diagnosis because they outgrew the condition, or because they were misdiagnosed in the first place.
The higher numbers recorded in the new study suggest that officials are getting better at counting kids with autism – not that more have the condition, several experts said.
“I don’t see any evidence that there’s a true increase in the prevalence of autism,” said Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Image: Boy, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment