Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Diagnoses of Autism on the Rise?

     Our class discussion of autism intrigued me. What left me most puzzled was the process of diagnosing the patient and understanding how that person fit on the autism spectrum. I decided to dedicate my blog post this week the evidence that I have found that shows the diagnosis of autism is on the rise. 
     I began by finding a report produced by Jon Baio of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (found here) that monitored autism and developmental disabilities from fourteen different sites. The numbers gathered from the data they collected were compared to numbers from the same collection of data from two years prior. The report was extremely thorough; it explained their analytic and evaluation methods. The CDC provided their results and also broke down the findings of their research into specific groups such as age, sex and race.
     The report produced in 2008 found that one in every 88 children had been diagnosed with a disorder on the autism spectrum by the age of 8. The same report from 2006 found that one in 110 children were on that spectrum. In 2002, the diagnosis was even more rare-- only one child in 155 were diagnosed with a disorder on the autism spectrum. 
     Jon Baio’s report of collected data for the CDC seemed a bit skewed in several ways. The report raised several questions in my mind...I initially questioned how valid the results could be when taken from a mere fourteen sites. Secondly, I question the standards by which these children were diagnosed. From what I understand of the disorder, the spectrum has a wide range of behaviors and impairments. While physicians are expected to use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders I question how the physicians heightened awareness of the disorder and other outside factors effect the frequency of their diagnosis. Regardless of whether or not the report’s results are completely accurate, the rising awareness of the disorder will benefit those who do fall on the autism spectrum. The attention brought to the disorder will improve research, therapies, improve function and assistive technologies for patients with autism. 

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