By Dr. Bob Sears – TACA Physician Advisory Board
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just reported that autism now affects 1 in 59 children in America (1.) I am not surprised by this statistic because I, and every other pediatrician down here in the trenches, have known this for years. What also doesn’t surprise me is that the CDC still refuses to admit that autism is ON THE RISE. It’s right there under the Public Health Action in the summary: “the prevalence of ASD is higher than previously reported estimates.” A better statement from the CDC should be: the worst public health crisis of our time is not only here, but it’s still getting worse and worse, and we don’t know why.
The latest autism number is based on children born in 2006. The way the CDC studies autism prevalence is that they gather data on 8-year-old children from an 11 state sample survey, take 4 years to study the data, then publish it. Kids born in 1992 had an autism prevalence of 1 in 150. For those born in 2002, it was 1 in 68. See the chart below. But the CDC hasn’t acknowledged that the disorder is actually increasing; instead, they claim we are just getting better at diagnosing it, or, again, “the prevalence is higher than previously reported estimates.” The CDC report confirms that the current numbers are all based on the same DSM 4 criteria (1). Who knows how DSM 5 diagnostic criteria will affect future reports?
The CDC agenda is to present autism as always having been this common. Nothing is going wrong with our children. Nothing is getting worse. It’s been this way since the 80s and we just didn’t know it. Sure, it’s a health crisis, but it’s not a RISING health crisis. So, we can take our own sweet time finding the causes, therapies and treatments. We’ll get to it, eventually, but in the meantime, America, don’t panic. Don’t start trying to find your own answers.
Plus, each cohort of kids are 12 years old by the time we learn their fate. Wonder what the rate of autism is in YOUR kids being born today? You’ll have to wait 12 years to find out. OR, you can follow the National Center for Health Statistics which surveys parents of current children across all age groups. Their 2016 data show autism affects 1 in 36 children (2.) In 2014 it was 1 in 45. But the CDC doesn’t formally use this data. Since it is a broader data set and newer information I can’t understand why.
This chart shows how the CDC has reported autism rates over the last 11 years:
Why is it imperative to the CDC that the public perceive autism as the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, instead of the ever-rising public health crisis that it really is? Cause. They are afraid the public will start looking for what’s causing it instead of writing it off as genetic. Research demonstrates autism is not just better diagnosed. It is not a change in the diagnostic criteria. There is just more autism (3.)
But you know what? The public isn’t stupid. People know autism is rising. It’s up 15% in the past two years, and it’s still 4 times more common in boys (1 in 37 boys; 1 in 150 girls). The public is beginning to suspect what variety of factors are causing it, and people are taking action to try to prevent it in their own kids. If anyone is waiting for the CDC to do something about autism, you better pack a lunch and bring a really big book, because you’ll be waiting a very long time. Because the CDC is still stuck trying to figure out its prevalence.
Meanwhile, there is you, and millions of other families nationwide, who need help. And TACA is here to do just that. We’ll help you, because for YOU, autism is 1 in 1 child. It’s a prevalence of 100%. You need real help now, and that’s what TACA is all about. Families living with autism today and families hearing the diagnosis tomorrow need the CDC to find more answers. Autism is a disorder that needs the CDC to call it what it is – a national emergency.
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The full report can be found here https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/ss/ss6706a1.htm
Other Dr. Bob Sears Blogs on this topic: