This e-newsletter provides obstetricians, pediatricians, and nurses with links to the latest research on ways to understand and to help children and adults on the autism spectrum. Please feel free to send us your comments and feedback to: ClinicalResearchInAutism@autism.com.
Previous issues of this e-newsletter can be viewed at: www.ClinicalResearchInAutism.com.
Steve Edelson, Ph.D. and Lenny Schafer
Diagnosis and Prevalence of Autism: What a Mess!
A new prevalence rate of autism was announced yesterday by the Center for Disease Control. The new estimate is that 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum. The previous rate, released in 2012, was 1 in 88. This new rate reflects a 29% increase in autism in just two years. Specifically, autism affects 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
In contrast to the CDC's numbers, a study published this month in JAMA Psychiatry suggests a decrease, not an increase, in autism, though the authors of the study attribute the lower rate to the new DSM-V criteria for autism.
Complicating the picture, a study published in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology last month indicates that a popular screening assessment, the Modified Childhood Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), is only accurate approximately one-third of the time.
It is obvious that much clarification is needed regarding the diagnosis of autism, which obviously affects the prevalence rate. There are many reasons for the confusion, including the heterogeneity of the autism population and a disagreement among professionals on a valid definition of autism.
Now for some good news: many research organizations, including the Autism Research Institute, have recently focused their attention on determining subtypes of autism. Once valid subtypes are determined, it will be much easier for researchers to study the underlying causes and most effective interventions for each subtype. We will keep subscribers up-to-date on this line of research.