Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
New research by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention reports that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects 11 percent of American children, spiking a staggering 43 percent since 2003 and growing by 2 million children since 2007. Researchers, far from being alarmed, are saying the finding shows that public awareness efforts and better diagnostic tools are helping families and doctors make an accurate number of diagnoses. More from CNN.com:
Today, 6.4 million children between the ages of 4 and 17 – 11% of kids in this age group – have received an ADHD diagnosis, according to the study, which is based on a survey of parents. That’s 2 million more children than in 2007.
The number of children using medications to treat ADHD is also rising. Since the last survey taken in 2007, there has been a 28% increase in children taking drugs to manage the disorder. More than 3.5 million children in the 4 to 17 age group, or 6%, are taking ADHD medications, the survey found.
These data are part of the CDC’s National Survey of Children’s Health, a national cross-sectional, randomized telephone survey. The survey is conducted every four years, and questions about ADHD diagnosis have been included since 2003. The latest data are from interviews conducted via telephone from February 2011 and June 2012, with 95,677 interviews completed and an overall response rate of 23%.
But while rising rates of ADHD diagnosis may be an alarming headline, Dr. John Walkup, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, found some positive news when looking at rates of prevalence and treatment. In his view, the data suggest that the increasing diagnosis rate of ADHD is getting closer to the true prevalence of ADHD, which is even higher.
“We’ve been working so hard for so long to improve treatment,” Walkup said. “If the prevalence rate is 9 to 11% and we’re getting 8% currently diagnosed, it suggests that the public advocacy for treatment is paying off.”
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Thursday, November 7th, 2013
A new, broader definition of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is leading to over-diagnosis and unnecessary medication of many children, a new report published in the British Medical Journal says. The rise also amounts to a $500 million bump in health care costs associated with ADHD in the U.S. alone. More from Reuters:
Less restrictive diagnostic criteria have contributed to a steep rise in diagnoses for the behavioral brain condition -particularly among children – the researchers said, and in the use of stimulant drugs to manage it.
The broader definition also “devalues the diagnosis in those with serious problems”, said Rae Thomas, a senior researcher at Australia’s Bond University who led an analysis of the problem and has published it in the British Medical Journal.
“The broadening of the diagnostic criteria is likely to increase what is already a significant concern about overdiagnosis,” he said. “It risks resulting in a diagnosis of ADHD being regarded with skepticism, to the harm of those with severe problems who unquestionably need sensitive, skilled specialist help and support.”
People with the ADHD are excessively restless, impulsive and easily distracted, and children with the condition often have trouble in school. It is most often diagnosed in children, mainly boys, but it is also known to persist into adulthood.
There is no cure, but the symptoms can be kept in check by a combination of behavioral therapy and medications such as Ritalin or a newer drug called Vyvanse.
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Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012
Proposed changes to the way autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are diagnosed have been on the minds of parents who worry that the new language, distinguishing, for example, between autism and Asperger syndrome, will lead to fewer services for a large number of kids. A new report, however, has found that the impact is likely to far far less than feared. From The New York Times:
Earlier research had estimated that 45 percent or more of children currently on the “autism spectrum” would not qualify under a new definition now being refined by psychiatric researchers — a finding that generated widespread anxiety among parents who rely on state-financed services for their children. The new report, posted online Tuesday by The American Journal of Psychiatry, concluded that the number who would be excluded is closer to 10 percent.
The finding may soothe the anxieties of some parents, but will not likely settle the debate over the effect of the new diagnosis.
All sides agree that the proposed criteria are narrower and will likely result in fewer diagnoses of autism, but until doctors begin using the new definition widely, the predictions of its effect are just that: predictions.
The debate has simmered over the past year as an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association has updated its proposals for the association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, scheduled to take effect in May 2013. The manual is the field’s standard reference, and several recent studies suggested that the amended autism definition was far narrower than intended.
“What I would say to families worried about the new criteria is that they’re more open-ended than the old ones,” said Catherine Lord, the senior researcher on the study. “So it’s very important to find a clinician who understands them, and who is not rushed when making a diagnosis.”
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Friday, July 27th, 2012
In a survey of the field of research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD), biologist Emily Willingham has concluded that rising rates of autism among children may be a question of new diagnostic techniques rather than an actual rise in the number of cases of ASD. For example, children who would have received a diagnosis of an intellectual disability in 1990 would today likely be diagnosed with ASD. From Boston.com:
That kind of change is called “diagnostic substitution,” Willingham explains, and it accounts for a lot of the rise in autism diagnoses. And there’s a lot of other, corroborating evidence, too. If autism were on the rise, you’d expect there to be more autistic children that autistic adults. Adults, though, don’t tend to be screened for autism — and when you do screen them, you find that the prevalence of autism is about the same among adults as it is among kids (1%). That suggests that autism isn’t on the rise. And that prevalence is the same all over the world, despite the fact that that the environmental factors which often take the blame for the rise in autism are unevenly distributed.
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Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
An online tool created by researchers at Harvard Medical School claims it can make the process by which young children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders far more efficient by having parents use an online tool to see if their child needs early interventions like speech, physical, and occupational therapies. HealthDay News reports:
The process relies on seven questions plus a short home video of an individual child.
The research team said its method could reduce by nearly 95 percent the time it takes to diagnose autism and could be easily included in routine child screening practices, greatly increasing the number of at-risk children who get checked for the disorder.
“We believe this approach will make it possible for more children to be accurately diagnosed during the early critical period when behavioral therapies are most effective,” Dennis Wall, an associate professor of pathology and director of computational biology initiative at the Center for Biomedical Informatics, said in a medical school news release.
The survey is currently available online, as researchers continue to gather data on its effectiveness. The current version of the survey is for parents of children who already have an ASD diagnosis. Though the online tool is intended to streamline the diagnostic process so parents and clinicians alike can save time and start therapies earlier, parents should always discuss developmental concerns with their child’s pediatrician.
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