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HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 26, 2018 — Autism rates continue to climb in the United States.

About 1.7 percent of children — one in 59 — are now believed to have autism spectrum disorder, up from an estimated rate of 1.5 percent in 2016, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said Thursday that some of the increase comes from better identification of autism cases in minority populations.

“Autism prevalence among black and Hispanic children is approaching that of white children,” said Dr. Stuart Shapira, associate director for science at the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“The higher number of black and Hispanic children now being identified with autism could be due to more effective outreach in minority communities, and increased efforts to have all children screened for autism so they can get the services they need,” he added in an agency news release.

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by repetitive behaviors, and challenges with social skills and communication.

But autism experts said better detection is not solely responsible for the continued increase in autism rates.

“We are seeing an increase, and I think it’s a meaningful increase,” said Thomas Frazier, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization. “I don’t think this increase can be completely accounted for” by the closing of disparity gaps.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

Autism Prevalence Around The World

There’s is no official count of the number of people who have been diagnosed with autism worldwide. Some countries don’t have well-established health and education systems, so those on the higher functioning end of the spectrum can slip through the cracks. According to the Simmons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, a number of factors can affect the accuracy of autism surveys worldwide. In addition to the heath and education resources available, these include the way that the society views autism and an autism diagnosis and the methods used to gather the data.

Although there are many countries that simply don’t have enough official data about autism, several countries have conducted reputable studies. They can offer a few clues about the prevalence of autism around the globe.

What Data Sources Were Used To Collect Data

NASS data are collected from a variety of sources, namely from education, social services and health sectors. The data source for each PT was identified through the environmental scans conducted from 2011 to 2015. Figure 2 identifies the PT ASD data sources from the participating regions for NASS.

Figure 2 – Provinces and territories by ASD data source for NASS, 2015

Figure 2 – Text description

Figure 2 illustrates the data sources of each of the 13 provinces and territories using a doughnut figure that has been colour coded to represent sources for each location. Five provinces use education data including: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Yukon. Quebec uses Health Services data. British Columbia uses social services data. Prince Edward Island uses all data sources combined. The six remaining provinces and territories are under review for their data sources including: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

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Some People Use Other Names For Autism

There are other names for autism used by some people, such as:

  • autism spectrum disorder the medical name for autism
  • autism spectrum condition used instead of ASD by some people
  • Aspergers used by some people to describe autistic people with average or above average intelligence

Unlike some people with autism, people with Aspergers do not have a learning disability.

Some people call this high-functioning autism.

Doctors do not diagnose people with Aspergers anymore.

But if you were diagnosed with it before, this will stay as your diagnosis.

How Many Kids Have Autism Us Government Measures 3 Ways

How Autism Affects Child Development

How many American children have autism? The U.S. government answers that question at least three different ways and says the latest estimate 1 in 40 kids doesnt necessarily mean the numbers are rising.

The new number, published Monday in Pediatrics, is from one of three periodic surveys the government uses to assess autism rates. Its higher than a different surveys estimate published earlier this year, but the surveys use different methods and measure different populations of kids so the results arent really comparable.

Because theres no medical test, autism spectrum disorder is a particularly challenging condition to track, government researchers wrote in the Pediatrics report.

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When Did Autism First Become A Diagnosis

The term autism was first introduced in 1943 to describe children who exhibited socially withdrawn and isolated behaviors. Children who received a diagnosis of autism likely showed severe behaviors, and children with milder symptoms may have gone unnoticed.

Since 1943, the definition and diagnostic criteria of autism have evolved greatly.

  • 1966: Autism prevalence was believed to be roughly 1 in 2,500 children.
  • 1980: Autism spectrum disorder was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders .
  • 1987: A new edition of the DSM expanded the diagnostic criteria so that 8 of 16 criteria had to be met in order to receive a diagnosis, rather than all 6 of the previously listed criteria.
  • 1994: The DSM-IV added Asperger syndrome under the definition of ASD, broadening diagnostic criteria again.
  • 2013: The DSM-5 combined autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder all under the label of autism.

The broadening of the definition and diagnostic criteria of autism has contributed to the steady increase in ASD diagnoses over the past decades. Combined with more awareness of the disorder, more people are receiving an autism diagnosis early in life and gaining access to essential services.

Social Communication And Social Interaction Challenges

Social communication

Autistic people have difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non-verbal language like gestures or tone of voice. Some autistic people are unable to speak or have limited speech while other autistic people have very good language skills but struggle to understand sarcasm or tone of voice. Other challenges include:

  • taking things literally and not understanding abstract concepts
  • needing extra time to process information or answer questions
  • repeating what others say to them

Social interaction

Autistic people often have difficulty reading other people recognising or understanding others feelings and intentions and expressing their own emotions. This can make it very hard to navigate the social world. Autistic people may:

  • appear to be insensitive

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How Common Is Autism

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Controls Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring reported that approximately 1 in 59 children in the United States has been identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder . This estimate is a 14% increase from the 1 in 68 rate in 2016 and a 47% increase from the 1 in 88 rate in 2012. In the 1980s autism prevalence was reported as 4 in 10,000. In the nineties, prevalence was 1 in 2500 and later 1 in 1000.

It is problematic to compare autism rates over the last three decades, as the diagnostic criteria for autism have changed with each revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual , which outlines which symptoms meet the criteria for an ASD diagnosis. In 1983 the DSM did not recognize PDD-NOS or Aspergers syndrome, and the criteria for autistic disorder were more restrictive. The previous edition of the DSM, DSM-IV, included autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, PDD-NOS, and Aspergers Syndrome. Due to inconsistencies in diagnosis and how much we are still learning about autism, the most recent DSM only has one diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder , which encompasses each of the previous four disorders. According to the new diagnostic criteria for ASD, one must have both deficits in social communication and interaction, and restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities .

What Teachers Can Do

New Study Aims To Unlock Information On How Autism Affects Children

Many students with autism can thrive in a structured environment, so establish a routine and keep it as consistent as possible. Adhering to daily schedules and allowing ample time for transitions can help with many students’ behavioral issues and frustrations.

Instructional support is often needed within the classroom setting. Students with autism learn better with pictures and demonstrations. Limit long verbal instructions and provide visual cues and written instructions, when possible. Also limit distractions and use positive rewards for positive behaviors.

Many people with autism have strong passions and deep interests. Getting to know your students’ likes and dislikes can help you understand what motivates them. Students with autism can participate in most activities that other kids and teens do, so provide encouragement to participate when appropriate.

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Autisms Effect On Executive Functioning

But what does executive functioning look like for a person with autism spectrum disorder? To understand this, its necessary to further understand how autism changes the way a person thinks.

Most people with autism are adept at seeing the step-by-step parts of the process, but they cannot conceptualize the big picture. Without that frame of reference, they struggle to see what details are relevant to the overall plan.

Similarly, most people on the autism spectrum are quite good at adhering to routines or schedules, but they may lack the executive functioning to change those schedules in response to a setback or change of plans. They may be unable to cope if the schedule is changed for them. Difficulty with change and transitions is one of the hallmarks of autism.

A person with some level of ASD may understand rules and how to follow them, but may become quite distressed when rules are broken, when steps are skipped, or shortcuts are taken. For a person without autism, these measures may be acceptable in the pursuit of the end goal. The person with autism may be unable to see the bigger picture so these incorrect steps are very upsetting to them.

Like a conductor ensuring harmony between all parts of an orchestra, executive functioning helps people switch from one activity to the next, from one part of the process to the other. A person with autism will likely struggle with these transitions.

Is Autism An Epidemic

Before discussing whether these numbers suggest an epidemic, its necessary to understand why autism statistics have increased. An epidemic is a spike in the rate of new cases. However, its unclear whether the prevalence of autism has really increased or if its just an increase in diagnoses.

Chris Abildgaard, LPC, a writer for Autism Parenting Magazine explains that there is an increase in identified cases of autism due to, expanding the definition from autism to autism spectrum disorder increasing knowledge of the disorder by professionals, which leads to an increase in better and earlier diagnoses more consistency by CDCs Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network in the method used to identify cases an actual increase in the rate of children being born with the disorder.

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Nass Participating Provinces And Territory

Collection of PT data was initiated in 2015. As of 2017, seven PTs have contributed 2015 data to NASS, they are: Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, British Columbia and the Yukon. Retrospective data have also been collected from Newfoundland and Labrador , Prince Edward Island , and Quebec which support analysis of trends over time within these regions. As full implementation is a phased process the remaining PTs will be brought into NASS as their data are assessed, and feasibility and validation projects are completed.

The population coverage varies amongst participating PTs. Nova Scotias data for 2015, included 40 percent of the population under surveillance as two of the largest school boards did not participate. In New Brunswick, 68 percent of the population 617 year olds is represented in NASS since presently only those who attend the Anglophone schools are included. The remaining PTs have representation of between 91 and 100 percent of the total school-aged population reflected in their 2015 NASS reporting.

Corresponding data for all participating PTs are given in Table 3: Provincial and territorial comparisons by prevalence, population representativeness, data sectors and data sources.

Table 3 – Provincial and territorial comparisons by prevalence, population coverage, data sectors and sources, 2015

Geographic Location

Rates Are On The Rise

About Autism

An estimated 1 in 40 children in this country have autism to some degree, according to a recent study from Pediatrics based on 2016 data. That’s about 1.5 million children between the ages 3 to 17. Nationwide, autism strikes three to four times more boys than girls the rates are about the same for kids of all races.

Although there seems to be an autism epidemic, the Pediatrics study attributes the increasing prevalence to more inclusive reporting. The definition of autism has been expanded in the past decade to include a wider spectrum of problems with communication and social interaction. “Ten years ago, many children with mild autism were simply not diagnosed,” says Adrian Sandler, M.D., a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Mission Children’s Hospital, in Asheville, North Carolina, and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on children with disabilities. Plus, there are more state and federal programs for autistic kids, giving doctors an incentive to diagnose and refer them. However, there may be additional, unknown reasons for the spike in autism rates, and researchers are investigating everything from environmental toxins to viruses to food allergies.

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What Causes Autism: 6 Facts You Need To Know

There are lots of frightening rumors about what causes autism, a mysterious brain disorder, in children. We asked leading experts across the country to get you answers.

Nancy Wiseman had a feeling early on that something wasn’t quite right with her daughter. When Sarah was 6 months old, she stopped babbling, and by 10 months, she was silent. By 18 months, the increasingly aloof toddler no longer responded to her name, and she resisted being held, kissed, or touched. “I felt that I was losing my child a little more each day,” says Wiseman, of Merrimac, Massachusetts. When Sarah wasn’t saying any words or even making sounds that resembled words by 20 months, her grandmother, a school psychologist, suspected that the girl might actually be deaf. Instead, Wiseman was devastated to learn that her daughter had autism. “The diagnosis really knocked the wind out of me,” she recalls, “but I was relieved to finally know what was wrong.”

There are many unanswered questions,” says Alice Kau, Ph.D., an autism expert at the National Institutes of Health, which funded more than $74 million in autism research in 2002, as compared with only $22 million in 1997. Still, researchers are beginning to make progress in unraveling this baffling disorder, and the number of resources available for families is increasing. Here, six facts about autism that every parent should know.

How Is Autism Treated

There is no cure for ASD. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can substantially improve those symptoms. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of the individual. Most health care professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.

Educational/behavioral interventions: Early behavioral/educational interventions have been very successful in many children with ASD. In these interventions therapists use highly structured and intensive skill-oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills, such as applied behavioral analysis, which encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative ones. In addition, family counseling for the parents and siblings of children with ASD often helps families cope with the particular challenges of living with a child with ASD.

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Asd Is More Commonly Found In Children Than Cancer Is

Most people are aware of the dangers of childhood cancer. According to top reports, cancer can develop in 1 in 285 children before they hit age 20. However, autism spectrum disorders statistics show that autism can develop in as few as 1 in 27 children, making it a highly common developmental disorder. Autism is more often found in kids than cancer, AIDs, and diabetes combined.

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What Are Some Common Signs Of Asd

How does bullying affect kids with autism?

Even as infants, children with ASD may seem different, especially when compared to other children their own age. They may become overly focused on certain objects, rarely make eye contact, and fail to engage in typical babbling with their parents. In other cases, children may develop normally until the second or even third year of life, but then start to withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.

The severity of ASD can vary greatly and is based on the degree to which social communication, insistence of sameness of activities and surroundings, and repetitive patterns of behavior affect the daily functioning of the individual.

Social impairment and communication difficultiesMany people with ASD find social interactions difficult. The mutual give-and-take nature of typical communication and interaction is often particularly challenging. Children with ASD may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact with other people, and only interact with others to achieve specific goals. Often children with ASD do not understand how to play or engage with other children and may prefer to be alone. People with ASD may find it difficult to understand other peoples feelings or talk about their own feelings.

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What Information Is Counted

NASS is particularly interested in reporting on two indicators with respect to ASD estimates in Canada:

Prevalence: The total number of cases diagnosed compared to the total number of individuals in a population for a specific time period , supporting comparisons by age, sex, region, time and/or other factors.

Incidence: The number of newly diagnosed cases in a specific time period in a defined population. This may inform a more targeted understanding of any changes by age, sex, region, time and/or other factors. For NASS, the incidence year is attributed to the year in which cases are first diagnosed.

Figure 1 – Incidence and prevalence illustration

Figure 1 – Text description

Figure 1 presents a visualization of incidence and prevalence. A container represents the population. Dots outside of, and moving into, the container represent new incidence. These dots blend into the portion of the container that is filled. The filled area of the container represents prevalence. The dots once blended with the filled portion of the container collectively represent prevalence.

For ASD prevalence, the numerator is the total number of identified ASD cases collected from PT data the denominator is the total number of Canadian children and youth at that point in time. Incidence denominator would only include the total number of Canadian children and youth who are not included as ASD cases. Estimates can be expressed as a percentage a rate and, as a ratio .

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