More Autistic People or More Diagnoses?

A new study from the British Medical Journal suggests that outside factors ranging from diagnosis methods to socioeconomic status may have inflated reports that suggest rates of autism are spiking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s March 2014 report showing a 30 percent rise in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) over the span of a few years triggered widespread concern over one simple question: what is the cause? A new study in the BMJ suggests the answer may have less do with the actual number of autistic children and more with the nature of how we diagnose them. Despite an apparent rise in ASD diagnoses, the Swedish researchers found less direct evidence of a rise in the actual number of patients with symptoms of these disorders. To investigate this discrepancy, they used two different sets of data — both originating in Sweden. The first was part of a comprehensive study that included nearly 20,000 children, all twins, born in that country over a span of 10 years. The second came from a national patient register, which they used to look for diagnosis codes typically associated with ASDs. Looking at this data, the authors conclude that something other than an actual increase in the number of children showing signs of autism is responsible for the increased prevalence of the diagnosis. The correct explanation may, at least in part, be related to something other than the actual number of autistic children at all.

Source/more: The Daily Beast

David Wingate is an elder law attorney practicing in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. The elder law practice concentrates on wills, powers of attorney, trusts, asset protection and Medicaid.

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