Catherine Lord is the director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, a subsidiary of Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital. She wrote this piece for CNN.com.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its newest study on the rate of autism among 8-year-olds, showing that 1 in 88 has some form of the disorder. Previously, it was 1 in 110. Does the new figure indicate that we are seeing an epidemic of autism, as some have speculated?
One possibility is that we are seeing the result of better detection rather than a real surge in autism.
However, there are some striking parts about the study, which used data from 2008 collected in 14 sites across the United States. The rate of autism increased by more than 45% from 2002 to 2008 in numerous sites. It was a larger and more consistent increase than from 2002 to 2006. Also intriguing is that the increase was very uneven in terms of geography, gender, race and ethnicity.