Autism Rates Rise Again
DeNisco, Alison, District Administration
Autism rates soared by nearly 30 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to an April study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in 68 eight-year-olds was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2010--a rate that has more than doubled since the year 2000, when 1 in 150 children were identified.
Boys were almost five times more likely to be identified with autism spectrum disorder, and white children were more likely to be diagnosed than were black or Hispanic children, according to the study. The rates are based on information collected in 2010 from health and special education records of children in 11 states.
The CDC did not cite a reason for the increase. But a major factor is increased awareness and diagnosis, says Hanna Rue, executive director of the National Autism Center, a nonprofit that provides information and promotes best practices for children with autism spectrum disorders. These disorders are often characterized by persistent deficits in communication and social interaction.
Parents, teachers and medical providers have a better understanding of the symptoms of autism, while researchers are examining genetic markers and environmental factors, such as pollution, that may cause the disorder, Rue says.
The increase in diagnoses means more services are needed in schools despite budget cuts to special education programs nationwide. "Our kids are in school by age four, and educators spend a lot of time with them," Rue says. "Despite everything else educators are supposed to do in terms of lesson planning and teaching, they can recognize some of the communication and social deficits that signify autism, and then bring it up tactfully with parents. …