How many American children have autism? The US government UU Answer that question in at least three different ways and say that the most recent estimate, 1 in 40 children, does not necessarily mean that numbers are increasing.
The new issue, published Monday in Pediatrics, comes from one of three periodic surveys the government uses to assess autism rates. It is higher than an estimate from a different survey published earlier this year, but the surveys use different methods and measure different populations of children, so the results are not really comparable.
Because there is no medical evidence, "autism spectrum disorder is a particularly difficult condition to track," government researchers wrote in the Pediatrics report.
The researchers state that the true onset of autism varies from approximately 1 in 59 children to 1 in 40 children, taking into account the information from the three surveys.
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"Everyone contributes different information to get a more complete picture," said Michael Kogan, lead author of the new report by the US Federal Agency for Health Resources and Services. UU
Several reports in recent years have suggested that rates of autism are increasing slightly. Experts believe that this is mainly due to an earlier diagnosis, an expanded definition and more awareness, but they say they can not rule out a true increase caused by unknown factors.
Here is a summary of the three surveys:
– The most recent estimate is based on the responses of approximately 43,000 parents of children aged 3 to 17 years. They were asked if their son had ever been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, the formal name that covers mild to severe cases. The 2016 survey was based on the Internet; the previous ones were telephone surveys that showed slightly higher rates, but the researchers say that the results are not comparable,
The nationwide representative survey suggests that about 1.5 million children in the US UU They have autism, 2.5 percent or 1 in 40.
– The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collect representative information at the national level of personal interviews. In 2016, he also asked parents of children aged 3 to 17 about an autism diagnosis as always, and obtained a slightly higher rate than in previous years, but similar to the estimate of 1 in 40.
– The CDC also uses a tracking system of 11 states. It is based on school and health records that show which children meet the criteria for autism, and focus on 8-year-old children because most cases are diagnosed at that age. A report from this network published in April showed that 1 in 59 children have autism, although much higher rates were found in some places. This estimate is considered the most rigorous, but it is not representative at the national level.
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Autism Speaks, a advocacy group, is among the organizations that use the CDC network estimate. It tends to be more conservative and potentially more accurate than parent reports, said neuroscientist Dean Hartley, senior director of the group,
Autism is a developmental disorder that can involve varying degrees of language and social impairments, which often include repetitive behaviors.
Experts say that affected children do better with early diagnosis and treatment, but some doctors may rule out early symptoms and some parents may be unaware of the symptoms of autism, said Dr. Stuart Shapira of the CDC.
The Pediatrics survey found that approximately one third of children with autism reported by parents did not receive behavioral treatment and showed that many parents had problems getting services for their children, echoing previous studies.
Shapira noted that the agency has a free phone application Milestone Tracker to help parents recognize the delays in development.