Autism Spectrum Disorder Rates Have Tripled Over the Last 2 Decades, Study Finds

Autism Spectrum Disorder Rates Have Tripled Over the Last 2 Decades, Study Finds
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According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the rates of autism have tripled over the last 16 years.

The research was published in the Pediatrics journal last week and looked at over 4,000 8-year-olds from the New Jersey and New York area and found that autism among kids is on the rise.

However, rather than the disease somehow affecting more patients than in the past, the team stressed that this is probably because of it getting greater awareness, the definition of autism getting broader and having better diagnosis tools nowadays.

On the other hand, they also learned that the increase in diagnosis was the greatest amongst children with affluent backgrounds, which unfortunately means that those in more disadvantaged communities have less access to medical resources, including autism diagnosis opportunities and tools.

As per the CDC, on a national level, 1 in 44 kids is diagnosed with autism in the United States.

The autism spectrum disorder, as it’s also referred to, starts before the child turns 3 years old and usually lasts for the rest of their lives, although symptoms can greatly vary and even improve as time goes on.

ABC News chief medical correspondent, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, advises that “You want to talk to your kid’s pediatrician about this because early intervention makes a big difference. Remember, those children [with ASD] grow up to be teenagers and adults, so the more that we can help them the better the outcomes can be.”

While most children get diagnosed after the age of 2, autism can sometimes be diagnosed as early as infancy.

However, there is no specific medical test to identify autism so medical specialists need to check a young one’s behavior and development closely in order to diagnose them with ASD.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that all kids get screened for the disorder at their 18 and 24 months well-child visits.

The AAP website reads that “It is those observations―in combination with family history, health examinations, and parents’ perspectives―that help pediatric primary health care providers identify children at risk for ASD.”

Unfortunately, the CDC mentions that in some cases, people are only diagnosed in their teenage or even adult years.

Some of the most common signs may include limited or no eye contact, and little to no smiling by the age of 6 months as well as little to no response to hearing their name by the age of 12 months.

The CDC also mentions that saying few or no meaningful 2-word phrases by the age of 24 months is also a clear sign.

Some other common symptoms include repetitive behaviors, limited interest in activities, delayed social interactions and sensory issues such as sensitivity to sound.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Jen Clark, told ABC News that “Someone might have the communication delay but may not have the motor skill delay. They may experience sounds as well as lights in a really different way than you and I would and sometimes they can also experience a sensory overload and they may wear headphones and this will all help to make the noise not as severe, but they may avoid certain situations where it is just too overwhelming.”


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Katherine Baldwin

Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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