The CDC is widely expected to release its long overdue results from its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network tomorrow that will tell us, once again, that autism is far more common that was thought just 2 years ago. If my understanding is correct, tomorrow we will know how common autism is in children that were 8 years old in 2004. Or to put it another way, we will finally have the answer to how many children born 13 years ago (in 1996) had a diagnosis five years ago. I don't know about you, but I am more interested in how many children being born today will go onto have a diagnosis, but I expect that we will have to wait until 2022 to get that answer.
With the release of this new data point, the CDC is likely to be moving the official autism number 50% higher - from 1 in 150 to 1 in 100. That means that the prevalence of autism would have jumped 50% between children born in 1994 and 1996.
As a result of this announcement, the CDC is going to have to make an important decision.
You might be tempted to think that this decision would revolve around how to tackle this ever growing problem. But then you would be wrong, we already know that the increase in the autism number is due to the fact that we are all now (or were in 2004) far more aware of autism, doctors are better at spotting it, and the parent's are jumping at the chance to have their children labeled as autistic to tap into all of those great services available.
Then what is the important decision? Simple, take a look at the following chart from CDC's autism page
Now ask yourself, do you think that the CDC is going to add another smiling child to the chart to reflect our new awareness of autism? I think that would be the least they could do to acknowledge all of the hard work that the medical community has done to make us all so aware of autism.
I guess we will find out shortly.
Edited to add -
The CDC did indeed release new data today for 2004 and 2006. The new "official" number is 1 in 110 which marks the four straight upwards revision in the autism rate. In a related note, the CDC did make a decision concerning the children in the chart - they were removed altogether.
I guess this upwards revision is nothing to smile about.