Is the Autism Epidemic Overstated?
> 1/16/2007 11:00:39 AM

No one doubts that the incidence of autism diagnoses has grown exponentially in recent years, but experts debate whether the condition is actually more common or if it's simply reported and diagnosed more often. We've reported on the growing awareness of autism, a development encouraged by cover stories on major magazines, clinical studies reporting high percentages of autism in the general population, and the efforts of celebrity spokesmen like ex-football star Doug Flutie. We've also reported on several proposed causes of the condition, from mercury in childhood vaccines and environmental toxins to too much television for infants.

Each of these stories should be considered on its own merits, and speculation on the precise nature and origin of the condition continues, but the latest reports center around a new book by esteemed George Washington University Anthropology Professor Richard Grinker, whose daughter is autistic. In the book, Grinker does not in any way look to minimize the condition:

(He) presents the controversial idea that there is no evidence for an autism epidemic. Instead, the high rates of diagnosis today are instead evidence that scientists are finally, after all these years, counting cases correctly. And this is a good thing, not only for the US but for the world, including cultures that have only just begun to learn about autism.

The rise in diagnoses is a kind of godsend for autistic children: one of the key elements in the equation is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a measure amended in 2004 that allows for increased funding aimed at improving educational opportunities for those affected by autism, Asperger's syndrome, and related disorders. The act requires public schools to provide appropriate, unrestrictive environments and disciplinary systems for these children.

Many more children are identified as autistic today than at any previous point in our history, yet its clear that the condition is not new and that our evolving methods of diagnosis and treatment are the most important issues in the world of autism equation. Asking questions about the nature of the recent spike is relevant but ultimately less important than the treatment of autistic children. Whether the spike results from new standards and greater understanding of the condition, sympathetic press coverage, or a small increase in the number of cases, the children and families affected can only benefit from more involved treatments and clinical assistance in raising kids who are able to communicate and interact with the world every day, going on to live satisfied lives. They certainly deserve that opportunity.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy