The number of people diagnosed with autism seems to have increased dramatically in 2014, though researchers are suggesting that the reason for the increase could have more to do with the diagnostic test, rather than an actual increase. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that the prevalence of autism for children between the ages of 3 and 17 jumped by 80 percent this year.
Researchers now believe that as many as 1 in 45 children suffer from autism, which is good for about 1.25 percent. If this rate proves to be correct, it would constitute an increase of nearly double the rate of 1 in 80 children previously believed to have suffered from the condition. This 1 in 80 rate is good for about 2.24 percent of all children, which is a more than substantial rate.
School districts have already been struggling to deal with autism, as children who suffer from this condition are generally more difficult to handle and educate.
This conclusion was reached by Benjamin Zablotsky, an epidemiologist at the NCHS and the lead author of the recent study that uncovered the potentially higher rate. Zablotsky realized that the questionnaire given to parents of autistic children was ordered in such a way that parents may have been incorrectly reporting autism as a learning disability, or in addition to a learning disability.
By restructuring the order of the questionnaire and flipping the categories presented, autism rates dramatically increased. Importantly, the rate reported by the newly structured questionnaire matches autism estimates made through other sources.
Interestingly but predictably the number of other developmental disabilities declined rapidly when the questionnaire was restructured. The rate declined from 4.84 percent in 2011-2013 to 3.57 percent in 2014.
A wide range of things has been linked to the seeming rise in autism over the last several years. Vaccines, processed foods, chemicals, and numerous other things have been suggested to increase autism rates.
It’s also possible that autism rates have remained consistent, but we are simply becoming better at diagnosing it. Autism is generally thought of as difficulty with social interactions.