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.
Autism Among Children In The United States
In an effort to track the number and characteristics of children in the U.S. with autism, the CDC established the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network in 2000. The network collects data from 11 sites throughout the country in order to better understand the impact of ASD in different communities.
The 11 surveillance areas vary in their data set. For example, Arkansass site consists of all 75 counties in the state, whereas Marylands site is just one county in the Baltimore metro area.
Data published in the most recent ADDM Network report, which was released in March 2020, revealed significant shifts and differences in ASD diagnoses and prevalence around the country. Overall, ASD estimates increased significantly across the country, with some sites exhibiting much higher rates of autism than others.
In 2016, the prevalence of ASD among 8-year-old children living across the 11 sites was as follows:
- Arizona: 1.6%
- Tennessee: 1.6%
- Wisconsin: 1.7%
Researchers from the ADDM Network are still gathering information to better understand why prevalence rates vary so much between sites.
While there was no overall difference in autism prevalence among black and white children, there were disparities in early diagnoses and interventions for black children. On average, black and Hispanic children received initial evaluations and diagnoses later than white children, as well as more delayed opportunities for early intervention services.
Defining The Broad Autism Phenotype
What exactly is the BAP and how many parents and siblings of people with autism have it? Where are the lines that separate having a few mild personality quirks from having the Broader Autism Phenotype? That separate the BAP from having autism spectrum disorder itself?
Unfortunately, there are no bright lines, or easy answers. On one hand, some parents have recognized a kinship with their child with autism and sought an ASD diagnosis for themselves, according to anecdote. Milder forms of autism, such as Aspergerâs Syndrome, may not have been recognized by doctors or teachers when they were children. On the other hand, most studies show that at least half of the relatives of someone with autism do not have measurable impairments in their social and communication skills or behavior.8, 9
What about those relatives who fall in between? Different studies have that shown that some parents or siblings have mildly impaired language and conversational skills, planning and memory skills, or social skills and relationships. Exactly how many of these mild impairments, or traits, do they need to have the Broader Autism Phenotype? Thatâs hard to say. For one thing, BAP is not a diagnosis. Your doctor wonât find it in the psychiatric diagnosis manual. âItâs a research constructâ something used by scientists to identify a personality type when they investigate autism, said Sarika U. Peters Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University.
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How Does Music Therapy Help Autism
Music therapy can improve the quality of life for people with autism and offer several benefits:
· Music is multi-sensory
In many music experiences, the child receives auditory, visual, and tactile input in one place. This can often be helpful, but we must keep in mind that some children are easily overwhelmed. Music is luckily flexible and adaptable to be able to fit each childs needs.
· Music is processed in the whole brain
When engaged in music activities, studies have shown that music is recognized by both the left and right hemispheres. Just listening to music activates neural networks that are responsible for emotions, creativity, and motor control.
· Music provides structure
Musical elements and structure create a sense of familiarity and security. It is helpful for individuals with autism to know what is coming next. For children that are very dependent on the repetition of the same activities new music experiences and songs can be introduced slowly, but while keeping most of the expected routine.
· Music can improve communication
· Music encourages social interactions
Children with autism have been found to show more emotional expression and social engagement from music therapy sessions than from play sessions without music.
· Music can reduce anxiety
· Music therapy can address motor, cognitive, and social skills
Early Treatment Is Crucial
There is no known cure for autism, but intensive therapy helps a child learn a wide range of skills from making eye contact to hugging to having a conversation. And the sooner a child begins, the better. A panel of experts convened by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 recommended that children should have 25 hours of therapy per week as soon as autism is suspected. Because children with autism have very different behaviors and abilities, the most effective approach takes into account a child’s unique challenges and encourages healthy development through play, rather than just trying to change specific symptoms. “Intervention can take many forms, from going to a regular preschool to a parent’s working with her child over the course of a normal day to direct therapies from well-trained teachers and professionals all depending on the child,” Dr. Lord says.
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How Many Kids Have Autism Us Government Measures 3 Ways
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.
How Many Kids Have Autism Us Government Measures Three Ways
How many American children have autism? The U.S. government answers that question at least three different ways and says the latest estimate1 in 40 kidsdoesn’t 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. It’s higher than a different survey’s estimate published earlier this year, but the surveys use different methods and measure different populations of kids so the results aren’t really comparable.
Because there’s no medical test, “autism spectrum disorder is a particularly challenging condition to track,” government researchers wrote in the Pediatrics report.
The true occurrence of autism likely ranges from about 1 in 59 kids to 1 in 40 kids, researchers say, taking into account information from all three surveys.
“All contribute different information to form a fuller picture,” said Michael Kogan, lead author of the new report conducted by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, a federal agency.
Various reports in recent years have suggested autism rates are rising slightly. Experts think that’s mostly because of earlier diagnosis, an expanded definition and more awareness, but say they can’t rule out a true increase caused by unknown factors.
Here’s a rundown on the three surveys:
The nationally representative survey suggests that about 1.5 million U.S. kids have autism2.5 percent or 1 in 40.
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How Many Kids Have Autism Diagnosis Numbers Are Stabilizing Data Show
After years of rising cases of autism, the number of kids diagnosed with the developmental disorder might be leveling off, according to new statistics.
Survey data suggest cases of autism among children and adolescents have not jumped over the last few years in the same way they did for the 20 years before, according to a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The rate of kids diagnosed with autism, which comes with symptoms that interfere with communication abilities and social skills, has become more stable.
Previous surveys have reported a steady increase in ASD prevalence in U.S. children over the past two decades, the letter says. But in recent years, the numbers have hit a plateau between 2014 and 2016, the estimate of children and adolescents with autism was about 2.4 percent, with no statistically significant increase over the three years.
The letter explained, however, that the estimated prevalence of the developmental disorder was based on self-reported diagnoses. Family respondents during the survey were asked if a doctor or other health professional had diagnosed a child with an autism spectrum disorder, which includes Aspergers syndrome and autistic disorder.
The survey information was gathered through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Surveillance Sites And Procedures
For 2018, the ADDM Network consisted of 11 sites . Sites were competitively funded, and each selected a contiguous geographic area of its state to monitor ASD among children aged 8 years . Children included in the 2018 ADDM Network data were born in 2010 and had a parent or guardian who lived in surveillance areas of the 11 sites during 2018. All sites functioned as public health authorities under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 Privacy Rule and met applicable local institutional review board, privacy, and confidentiality requirements under 45 CFR 46 .
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Why Is Autism Increasing So Much
Youve probably seen the Autism Speaks ads: Every two seconds a child is diagnosed with autism. As I write this today, the CDC has determined that 1 in a 54 people or 2% of males has an autism spectrum disorder !1Ever since Bob Wright, former president of NBC, became the grandfather of a child with autism and created Autism Speaks, awareness of and research on the condition has skyrocketed. Given this prevalence, you probably know someone who has a child with an ASD.
Welcome to my world. I am a developmental and behavioral pediatrician who has specialized, over the last 30 years, in caring for, diagnosing, and helping literally thousands of children and adolescents with ASD.
Over this time, my patients and their families have taught me so much about what it means to both struggle and grow and accept what cant be changed. I have learned to see through the eyes of the differently abled and their families. I have been witness to the miraculous potential within many of these children and adolescents who become fully functional and even indistinguishable from their peers . Recent research has found that the child with autism who receives intensive early intervention can outgrow their diagnosis.2 In my practice, I have many children who, over time, no longer met the official criteria for an autism spectrum disorder.
with lilacs. The last descendant.
J Child Psychol Psychiatry.JAMA Psychiatry.
Large Head Size Is A Red Flag
Recent findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that the brains of children with autism develop differently from an early age. Researchers discovered that most infants who were later diagnosed with autism had small head circumferences at birth but had heads and brains much larger than normal by 6 to 14 months. “Some of them went all the way up to the 90th percentile in just a few months,” says study coauthor Natacha Akshoomoff, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Those who ended up with the most severe form of autism were found to have the most dramatic acceleration of brain growth during infancy.
Pediatricians don’t always measure head circumference at well-baby visits, so it’s wise to request it. However, don’t panic if your baby’s head size is above the norm. Some babies just have big heads. “Rapid head growth is not a way to diagnose autism,” Dr. Akshoomoff points out, “but it means that a child should be watched closely to be sure that she meets speech and behavioral milestones.”
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Asd Is Four Times More Likely To Occur In Boys Than Girls
That said, the validity of this stat should be put under scrutiny. According to autism misdiagnosis statistics, many autistic girls go undiagnosed. One of the reasons for that is that girls are often thought to be quieter by nature. Finally, symptoms of mental health issues might overlap with those of autism, leading up to a misdiagnosis.
Getting To The Causes Of Autism
Getting to the cause or, more accurately, causes of autism will be more difficult than unraveling the causes of cancer, says Gary Goldstein, MD, president and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, a facility that helps children with autism and other developmental disorders.
There wont be one single explanation, says Marvin Natowicz, MD, PhD, a medical geneticist and vice chairman of the Genomic Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.
Theres been a lot of progress in the last few years in terms of understanding the causes of autism, Natowicz says. We know a lot more than we did. Still, he says, research has a long way to go. One number you see often is that about 10% of those with autism have a definitive diagnosis, a causative condition. The other 90% of cases are still a puzzle to the experts.
Often, a child with autism will have a co-existing problem, such as a seizure disorder, depression, anxiety, or gastrointestinal or other health problems. At least 60 different disorders genetic, metabolic, and neurologic have been associated with autism, according to a report published in The New EnglandJournal of Medicine.
On one point most agree: A combination of genetics and environmental factors may play a role. Scientists are looking at both areas.
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New Analyses Also Find That A Third Of Children With Autism May Lack Treatment
The prevalence of autism has risen over the past few decades, a finding established by multiple methods of assessing prevalence. New analyses of a national survey emphasize this trendestimating a rate of 2.5 percent. They also call attention to the barriers that families face in trying to access services and treatment for children with the condition.
Nearly a third of children with autism arent receiving treatment, says Wei Bao, the lead author of one analysis and an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa. Autism is a condition with a lifetime impact, so we want to see children receive appropriate treatment, because it will benefit their lifetime health.
Two research teams recently mined the 2016 National Survey of Childrens Health for insights on autism prevalence and treatment. The survey encompassed 43,000 children across the United States parents of those children reported whether a mental health professional had ever told them their child had autism. Both papersone published in Pediatrics and one published in JAMA Pediatricsreported that based on parents responses, 2.5 percent of U.S. children age 3 to 17 have an autism diagnosis.
Terms For Types Of Autism That Are No Longer Used Today
When autism was categorized by types, the lines between the different types of autism could be blurry. Diagnosis was, and still is, complicated and often stressful for families.
If you or your child received a diagnosis before the DSM-5 changed, you may still be using the older terminology . Thats OK. Your doctor may continue to use those terms if they help.
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Cdc Says 1 In 44 Kids Have Autism
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that an increasing number of American children have autism.
Autism rates are increasing yet again, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which finds for the first time that more than 2% of American children have the developmental disability.
The CDC said Thursday that 1 in 44 children, or 2.3%, are on the autism spectrum.
The data comes from a report published in the agencys Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that looked at data from 2018 on 8-year-old children in 11 communities across the country.
By comparison, a similar report released in March 2020 that was based on data from 2016 found that 1 in 54 children had autism. In 2000, the rate was 1 in 150.
We cant say for sure what is behind the increase in prevalence, said Matt Maenner, an epidemiologist at the CDCs National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities who led the new study. But it may be due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their communities, as well as continued reductions in racial or socioeconomic disparities.
Autism prevalence varied significantly across the communities studied, researchers said. At the low end, 1 in 60 children in Missouri or 1.7% were on the spectrum in the latest study. Meanwhile, the highest rate was seen in California were 1 in 26 children, or 3.9%, qualified for a diagnosis.