Sunday, October 4, 2009

Autism now 1 in 91

In a completely expected move, the CDC announced today that the autism is now thought to affect 1 in 91 children in the US.

This finding is largely based on a new study that was published today in Pediatrics. In the study the researchers looked at the recent results of the National Survey of Children's Health and, after cleaning up the data, arrived at the figure of 110 out of 100,000 children aged 3 to 17 have a form of autism.

The CDC has confirmed, through media sources, that the most recent (and still unpublished) ADDM data agrees with this estimate.

This number should not come as a surprise to anyone as this change has been widely expected for a while now. What concerns me is the reaction from the CDC over this issue. There has been plenty of press coverage today with reports from the Huffington Post, New York Times, CNN, NPR, and many others.

But, if you looked at the CDC's web site earlier today, there was not a word of the announcement. If you looked at the press releases on their site you would see that "Fewer U.S. Schools Selling Less Nutritious Food and Beverages" but you wouldn't see anything about autism. I realize this is a minor nit-pick, but you would think that they would at least have a press release about it on the day of the announcement.

Minor points aside, what really concerns me are comments like the ones attributed to Dr. Thomas Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health and head of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee -
"The concern here is that buried in these numbers is a true increase," said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. "We're going to have to think very hard about what we're going to do for the 1 in 100."
He is concerned that, buried in a 60 percent increase, there might be a true increase? First it was 1 in 500, then 1 in 250, then 1 in 166, then 1 in 150, and now 1 in 91 and we are still debating about whether there is a true increase?

The prevalence of a profound disorder like autism increases by 500 percent over a twenty year period and the head of two major governmental agencies charged with addressing the problem needs to "think very hard" about what to do and wonders if the rate is really going up?

I guess the real question here is why the CDC and the US Government aren't doing everything in their power to find answers to some of the most basic questions about autism. These questions have have been asked for over a decade and it is long past for them to be answered.

Are we going to have to wait another few years and hear the same excuses when the rate of autism is approaching two percent?

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