Monday, January 4, 2010

Autism Increase May Reflect Greater Awareness

When developmental and behavioral pediatrician Raun Melmed, MD, started in the field 25 years ago, autism was a relatively unusual diagnosis. Today, his Scottsdale, Ariz., practice sees two to three new cases of autism spectrum disorder each week.
Like many physicians, Dr. Melmed isn't sure what has driven that rate upward. But he thinks broadening the definition of autism "accounts for at least half of new cases identified, and maybe more."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the autism rate is going up markedly. From 2002 to 2006, the rate of autism spectrum disorders among 8-year-olds jumped 40%, from one in 154 to one in 110, according to a study released Dec. 18, 2009, in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Researchers offered no firm explanation for the upward trend, nor did they evaluate risk factors or causes. However, the CDC report pointed to a number of factors, including improved community awareness, the widening of diagnostic criteria to include milder presentations, and earlier identification.

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