Monday, March 19, 2012

The CDC's Forthcoming Autism Prevalence Estimate

According to Disability Scoop, the CDC is getting ready to release a new autism prevalence estimate in the next month or so.  Although there haven't been any official comments or leaks as of yet, the new estimate is widely expected to be higher than the one from only 3 years ago.

I hope no one will be shocked by yet another increase in the "official" autism rate in the US - if you are then you haven't been paying attention.

No, the only real question is how much higher the prevalence figure is going to be this time and what justifications the CDC will use to try to explain away the increase.  Although, to be honest, neither of these things are really questions.

If history is any guide, I would expect the CDC's announcement to be based on data from eight year olds in 2008 and possibly 2010 as well.  That would mean that we would be talking about children who were born in 2000 and 2002, respectively.

We have already seen some reports on children born during this time period in the 2007 National Survey of Children's HealthMassachusetts, Wisconsin,  Utah, and Montreal (isn't Canada part of the US?).  All of the data from all of these sources are pointing in one direction - up - and show a fairly consistent pattern.

So, based on those figures and the other historical CDC data, I would guess that the CDC's new figure will be somewhere in the range of 1 in 90 (120 per 10,000) to 1 in 80 (130 per 10,000) which would translate into roughly a 30% increase.

As for the reasons the CDC gives, well, I expect those to be almost identical to the one's from three years ago.  They will say something along the lines of more awareness, more people willing and able to make a diagnosis, an increase in available services, better counting, and maybe, just maybe a small real increase in the rate.

Or in short, I fully expect 2012's announcement to be almost identical to the one in 2009.  The CDC will announce a major increase in the autism rate, use the same tired lines to try and explain the increase, and tell us not to worry because they know is it an "urgent" health concern.

So get ready for Groundhog Day.


  1. I would expect the figure to be in the 1 to 80's range. But with the games that the CDC plays with the ADDMN sites, one never knows. The true rate will be lower but who needs to be concerned with the true rates. Our government fails to accept this as a true national emergency, an epidemic.

  2. Not to worry. The CDC can now count, whereas, 25 years ago-they didn't know how. They may release the informatiobn on April Fool's Day"--Just kidding, not to worry-better diagnosing. Or on Good Friday at 5pm--not to worry--it's a good Day-more autism awareness. Or on Passover to commemorate the passing-over of all our children on the autism spectrum. They don;t care about our children or us. The autism community and those that agree with us--must change the dialog.
    Maurine Meleck, SC
    grandmother to 2 vaccine injured boys-one recovered

  3. I'm with Maurine, they will bury the release on a weekend.

    And considering their past with changing data and burying access to numbers (VSD study) they may even change the numbers to a rate like 1 in 200. If so expect big media fanfare and a pat on the back. We will here something like "we adjusted the numbers by applying the new DSM-V criteria (since they are so cutting edge)" and then announce they "lost" or turned over the data to a pvt organization so the terrorists or Anonymous or Wikileaks couldn't misrepresent the data.

  4. Actually, I kinda expect the CDC to announce their new findings on 3/31 or 4/6. The findings will likely be announced via the MMWR which is published on Fridays. I suspect that they are going to want to publish the new figure at the start of autism awareness month.

    That the start of autism awareness month would coincide with a holiday week when the news cycle will be slower might be considered a bonus. After all, they did exactly the same thing last time and published a week before Christmas.

  5. What is odd to me is that they acknowledge an epidemic with autism, yet they don't undertake any actions find out the cause. I think CDC is being quiet, because those at HHS are keeping them quiet and to just stay focused on statistics, not causation.
    On the other hand, we have the CDC PUSHING vaccinations like crazy, for fear of "an epidemic." What happened to their response priority? The priority is to take action on a current epidemic. Just baffles me and others.

  6. Don't you think that any increase that isn't due to diagnosis rates is probably due to evolution? Autistics finding themselves in a society where they are more able to reproduce.

    1. I don't think that is likely. According to the data that I have seen, the vast majority of people with autism never leave home, never get married, and never have kids.

      The sad fact is that it is only a tiny minority (maybe 2-3%) that are able to function well enough to go on to have families of their own.

      Maybe this will change over time as better treatments and accommodations become available but I doubt it was true for people with autism who would have children born in 2000.

    2. How are you defining autism? Kanners? Autistic disorder? Or all ASDs?

    3. DSM IV or DSM IV-TR autism? The same criteria that all of the CDC's increasing data points for the past decade have been based on? The same criteria that have been is widespread use for almost 20 years now?

    4. I was referring to people with Aspergers, who can have autistic children of all flavours. Society, on the whole, is probably more favourable to them. We know for sure that autism is largely heritable, so natural selection would be the most obvious explanation (besides fashionably increased diagnosis).

  7. The CDC will hold its press conference Thursday, March 29. The news will be embargoed until Friday morning.

    The word "epidemic" has a specific meaning. There is no autism epidemic.

    1. Just out of curiosity, do you have a source for that little bit of information?

      And yes, I do realize the word "epidemic" has a specific meaning and it is debatable whether or not there are more cases of autism that are expected.

      Based on historical trends, I think the data supports the idea that there is a real, unexpected increase that cannot be explained by mere social factors. You clearly disagree.