Autism Cases Skyrocket By 787 Percent In Just 20 Years Study Reveals
EXETER, United Kingdom Autism diagnoses have jumped by nearly eight times in just the last two decades, a new study finds. Although many may associate autism with children and men, researchers at the University of Exeter say doctors are seeing this rise in cases more often among women and adults.
Their study reveals that, between 1998 and 2018, autism diagnoses across the United Kingdom have skyrocketed by 787 percent. Researchers reviewed the medical records of nine million patients to reach these findings.
Specifically, the team discovered that cases of Aspergers syndrome a form of autism with no link to intellectual disabilities were rising before health officials retired that particular diagnosis in 2013. Aspergers now falls under the greater diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder .
A Brief History Of Vaccine Conspiracy Theories
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
On Tuesday, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced that Donald Trump had tapped him to lead a special commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity. Kennedy, an environmental attorney by day, is a proponent of a long-discredited conspiracy linking vaccines to autism. For public-health officials, pro-vaccine advocates, and anyone trying not to get whooping cough, the news was major cause for concern.
The Trump transition team temporarily quelled those fears by announcing that, though Trump is considering forming such a commission, no decisions regarding its leadership had been made. But an anti-vaxxer still has the ear of the president-elect, a man who has himself been sympathetic to conspiracy theories regarding autism and vaccines in the past.
While anti-vaxxing has been largely absent from presidential politics, opposition to vaccines has been around for at least as long as vaccinations themselves. When Boston physician Zabdiel Boylston began rubbing slices from smallpox sores into open wounds to try to protect the healthy from outbreaks in the early 1700s, his inoculation method was met with immediate resistance.
Those parents fears about an autism epidemic aligned perfectly with the anti-vaxxing movement, which was still simmering in the world of immunizations.
If vaccines continue to become more tightly linked to political identity than public health, it could further reduce vaccination rates. And that would endanger us all.
Zeroing In On The Genetics Of Autism
Some evidence that genetics plays a role in autism and ASD is provided by research on twins. According to the CDC, if one identical twin has autism, there’s a 75% chance the other twin will be affected, too. If a fraternal twin is affected, the other twin has a 3% chance of having autism.
Parents who give birth to a child with ASD have up to an 8% chance of having another child who is also affected, the CDC estimates.
Many U.S. couples have delayed childbearing, and the older ages of both the mother and the father have been linked with a higher risk of having children with ASD, according to a report in the journal Pediatrics. With age could come increased risk for genetic mutations or other genetic problems.
Specific genetic problems help explain only a small percentage of autism cases so far. “We know that major chromosomal abnormalities are identified in about 5% of ASD,” says Milunsky of Boston University. “We know that Fragile X syndrome is responsible for about 3%.” Fragile X syndrome, a family of genetic conditions, is the most common cause of inherited mental impairment, and also the most common known cause of autism or autism-like behaviors.
“Hot spots” of genetic instability may play a role, researchers say. For instance, a team of researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that duplications and deletions on a specific chromosome seem to be associated with some cases of autism.
But genetics is not the whole story, he and other experts say.
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Timeline: Major Historical Developments In The Treatment Of Autism
- 1911 Eugen Bleuler first uses the term autism to describe symptoms of schizophrenia
- 1920s Electroconvulsive therapy first used to treat symptoms of autism
- 1920s Emergence of dietary restrictions for autism treatment
- 1943 Leo Kanner first characterizes autism as a social and emotional disorder
- 1944 Hans Asperger publishes article on autism as a communication disorder in children
- 1950s Bruno Bettelheim coins the refrigerator mother theory
- 1950s Parentectomy is common treatment approach for autism
- 1970s Temple Grandin develops a squeeze machine for children with autism
- 1970s Shock therapy and aversive punishment mainstream autism treatment approach
- 1970s Guy Bérard develops auditory integration training for autism treatment
- 1977 Susan Folstein and Michael Rutter publish first twin study on autism
- 1970s Pharmaceutical treatments for autism become main treatment method
- 1980 Infantile autism is its own category in DSM-III
- 1987 Autism is expanded in DSM including diagnostic criteria
- 1987 Ivar Lovass develops intensive behavioral therapy for children with autism
- 1997 Emergency of special education programs for children with autism
- 2013 Autism spectrum disorders classified in DSM-V
Autism Diagnosis: ‘i Want 40 Years Of My Life Back’
For most of his life, Barney Angliss struggled to fit in. At the age of 49, he finally had a diagnosis that helped him understand why.
As a child, he remembers his family not allowing him to go to a new school. “They thought I would be bullied to death”.
Although he was good with words he had few friends and – by his own admission – he lacked empathy and social skills.
He felt increasingly depressed and inadequate, and his physical health was suffering too – with severe bouts of asthma becoming more and more regular.
Finally, prompted by his wife, Barney saw a clinical psychologist – and was diagnosed with Asperger’s.
He says suddenly his lack of social skills, his bluntness and constant search for order made sense. “It explains all of my failures.”
Robert Greenall, 53, a BBC journalist, recently learnt he is also on the autistic spectrum.
“All my life, I’d been wondering why I could never quite ‘get’ other people, and they could never quite ‘get’ me,” he says.
“You’re an enigma” or “you’re on another planet” were jibes he heard frequently.
For a long time he thought it was to do with being an only child, or being sent to boarding school and having an isolated childhood.
While he loved looking at maps and reading about railways, other boys seized on his awkwardness and lack of confidence on the sports field.
As an adult, he found social interaction hard and small talk at parties a nightmare. He wondered why he couldn’t read people’s emotions and show empathy.
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Comparison Of Dds Rates With Rates From Other Populations
A review of studies completed between 1998 and 2001 from several countries concluded that the prevalence of autism is about 13 per 10,000 persons and for pervasive developmental disorders more generally, 37 per 10,000 persons. Data from educational systems or administrative databases alone tend to indicate lower proportions, whereas recent investigations using intensive screening or multiple ascertainment sources obtain higher figures: a range of 5867 cases of pervasive developmental disorder per 10,000. , The CDCs Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring network found prevalence of autism spectrum disorders , defined as autistic disorder, Aspergers syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, at age 8 years ranged from 45 to 99 per 10,000 across 6 sites. The CDC use of a single age likely produced data more comparable with our cumulative incidence measure, and by age 8, also avoided much of the bias associated with changing age at diagnosis. By comparison, the cumulative incidence of autism through 9 years of age, based on the California State data, was about 30 per 10,000 for the 1995 California birth cohort, and will certainly exceed 40 per 10,000 for the 2000 and 2001 birth cohorts. These figures are higher than most published estimates for autism alone but may be inflated by inclusion of some ASD cases.
A History And Timeline Of Autism
The history of autism begins in 1911, when Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler coined the term, using it to describe what he believed to be the childhood version of schizophrenia.Since then, our understanding of autism has evolved, culminating in the current diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and informed by many notable events impacting autism clinical research, education, and support.
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Autism In The Early 20th Century
The first appearance of autism in historical literature was in 1911 by Eugen Bleuler, a psychiatrist from Switzerland, who used the term to describe a unique cluster of symptoms that were traditionally thought to simply be symptoms of schizophrenia. Coming from the Greek word autos, autism was originally used to describe extreme social withdrawal that was common with psychiatric diseases that presented with psychosis. Although it is now known that autism and schizophrenia are two unrelated disorders, autism was not classified as its own disorder in any diagnostic manual until 1980.
When Was Autism First Diagnosed
Autism had a lot of descriptions in the past decades. It was first thought of as a form of childhood schizophrenia. There was even a time where the disorder was thought to stem from cold parenting.
Throughout the years, the diagnostic criteria and the description of autism changed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in its editions. This manual is used in the United States to guide physicians in their diagnoses, and it gives us a great idea about how autism diagnosis changed over the years.
An Austrian-American psychiatrist and physician, Leo Kanner first described autism in 1943 . In his article, he mentioned children with delayed echolalia as well as how they wanted to maintain sameness in their lives. He also wrote that these children were also gifted in terms of intelligence and they had an extraordinary memory.
This led Leo Kanner to consider autism a psychiatric condition. Kanner observed autism as an emotional disturbance rather than a developmental or cognitive one. In light of this information, the second edition of the DSM, DSM-II, was published in 1952 with the definition of autism as a psychiatric condition. The manual deemed autism a form of childhood schizophrenia . It was characterized by atypical and withdrawn behavior, general unevenness, gross immaturity and inadequacy in development, and failure to develop identity separate from the mothers.
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The Epidemic That Never Was: Autism Has Always Been With Us
But the truth may be both stranger and more prosaic: there may be no epidemic at all.
To understand why, you have to plumb some of the hard questions about what autism actually is, and how we have come to view the disorder since it was first defined in the 1940s.
A psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins named Leo Kanner was the first doctor to describe the condition as a distinct disorder in 1943. But Kanner didnt coin the term similar symptoms had been described as autistic as early as 1910, and accounts from as far back as the 18th century describe patients who, in all likelihood, would have fit modern standards for an ASD diagnosis.
So autism has always been with us and in proportions that have not always been clear. Inventing a diagnosis did not invent the disorder. And it turns out to be very likely that changing the diagnostic routines has not actually changed the number of people afflicted, but only our ability to accurately count them.
That change happened in 1994. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, the standard classification system used by psychiatrists, had provided a diagnosis for autism since 1980. That diagnosis required that candidates match six of six possible criteriaa high standard. But the new version of the DSM released in 1994 required that only eight of sixteen criteria be meta lower bar.
In fact, a 2015 study in Denmark attributed about 60 percent of the increase in autism diagnosis to DSM changes alone.
Focusing On Early Diagnosis
Now, researchers have turned much of their attention to identifying autism in children as early as possible in hopes of intervening sooner with therapies to try to alter the developmental trajectory of their young brains. While skilled practitioners can diagnose autism in toddlers at 18 to 24 months of age with some research indicating there are detectable signs in babies as young as 6 months most kids arent diagnosed until age 4.
Katarzyna Chawarska, a professor of child psychiatry who leads Yale Universitys Autism Center of Excellence in New Haven, Connecticut, is studying signs of autism in babies. The reason why we are focusing so much on early diagnosis is that it is our hope that by intervening early, we can capitalize on still tremendous brain plasticity that is present in the first, second, third year of life, she said.
The goal, Chawarska said, is to help alleviate the symptoms and make sure that every child with autism reaches their full potential.
If youre trying to get rid of autism, youre trying to get rid of us.
Doctors, for instance, would like to minimize any intellectual disabilities and help patients communicate better and improve socials skills. They also want to quickly identify and address any medical conditions that often accompany autism, such as seizures, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and anxiety.
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Social And Communication Skills
Impairments in social skills present many challenges for autistic individuals. Deficits in social skills may lead to problems with friendships, romantic relationships, daily living, and vocational success. One study that examined the outcomes of autistic adults found that, compared to the general population, those with ASD were less likely to be married, but it is unclear whether this outcome was due to deficits in social skills or intellectual impairment, or some other reason.
Prior to 2013, deficits in social function and communication were considered two separate symptoms of autism. The current criteria for autism diagnosis require individuals to have deficits in three social skills: social-emotional reciprocity, nonverbal communication, and developing and sustaining relationships.
Some of the symptoms related to social reciprocity include:
- Lack of mutual sharing of interests: many autistic children prefer not to play or interact with others.
- Lack of awareness or understanding of other people’s thoughts or feelings: a child may get too close to peers without noticing that this makes them uncomfortable.
- Atypical behaviors for attention: a child may push a peer to gain attention before starting a conversation.
Symptoms related to relationships includes the following:
- Defects in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships.
- Difficulties adjusting behavior to fit social contexts.
Autistic people may experience difficulties with verbal communication:
Why Is Autism Increasing Dramatically
Let us start by reiterating some facts about autism.
- Multiple large-scale studies have established, with adequate proof, that vaccines do not cause autism.
- Autism does not develop due to bad parenting choices.
- Autistic spectrum disorders are not contagious.
Although the number of children diagnosed with autism has steadily increased over the last few years, this is not because more children develop autism now than before.
Experts cite the following reasons to explain the rise in autism cases in recent years.
ASD includes a broad spectrum of disorders with following symptoms, thus accommodating more kids under the title of autism.
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Changing The Narrative Around Autism
Researchers examined data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink primary care database to discover this growing trend. In total, 65,665 people received an autism diagnosis in 2018. Moreover, doctors are noting signs of autism in patients at older ages. The team says part of this is likely because diagnosing autism in younger children is a more complex process.
The Exeter team hopes their findings that more adults and women have ASD will change the perception that autism is a male disorder. The results show autism rates are noticeably growing among females in comparison to male patients. The team adds that this change proves that initiatives to raise awareness and screenings for autism among women and older patients are working.
The History Of Autism
It has been more than 50 years since Leo Kanner first described his classic autistic syndrome. Since then, the results of research and clinical work have helped us learn more about autism. More and more people are being diagnosed as autistic, although we still have a long way to go in creating a world that works for autistic people.
Read our charity’s timeline below to explore the history of autism, meet some of our ‘autism pioneers’ and find out more about the incredible work they’ve done.
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Calculation Of Population Incidence Rates
Dates of onset of autism were not known. Month and year of diagnosis was recorded on 87% of the Client Development Evaluation Reports 74% of these records were within 3 months of the diagnosis whereas 93% were within 12 months. Because of missing diagnosis dates, we used the earliest date of a DDS record with autism noted. Population incidence rates were determined for children ages 04 years and 59 years by using Census data to derive denominators. For the numerator, we multiplied the number of newly reported cases of autism in the age group during each quarter by 4 to give an equivalent annual rate for the quarter. Annual California population estimates were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, including intercensal estimates. Given that we used full population data , random error would not be present hence standard errors were not calculated. We applied the SAS LOESS nonparametric method for estimating regression curves to both age ranges. The averaging period for each data point is chosen so that the neighborhood contains a specified percentage of the data points.