Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Clinic Notes: Is the Autism Epidemic for Real? Redux

The argument regarding the autism epidemic goes on. One side saying we are in the midst of an autism epidemic with 1 in 110 children being born ending up with an autism diagnosis. The other side saying changes in the diagnostic criteria for autism which resulted in a drop in the number of children diagnosed with mental retardation and learning disabilities explains the increase. A recent study by Peter Bearman at Columbia University in New York sheds some light on the controversy. He and his colleagues identified three variables, which account for much of the increase in the number of cases of autism. Diagnostic changes, parents being more aware of autism, and older parents. However, when they quantified these 3 variables to see what percentage of the increase they accounted for they found that these 3 variables only accounted for half of the increase in the number of autism cases. So it sounds like both sides are right--half right anyway.