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New Autism Study

May 13, 2011

There’s a new study out in the American Journal of Psychiatry (“Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in a Total Population Sample”, by Young Shin Kim and colleagues) looking at exactly how common autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD’s) are in the general population. The statistics that have most commonly been used has been 1 in 100 or 1 in 110 kids, but this project came to a very different conclusion.

Many past studies on the prevalence of autism have gone into communities and looked at medical and educational records in order to count how many kids have the diagnosis. The problem with this is that it obviously fails to count kids who are not identified by their doctors or schools. This study took a community with slightly more than 50,000 kids between the ages of 7 and 12, and tried to actually screen each one for an ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Over the course of five years they had parents fill out questionnaires, and when there were “red flags” they had those kids in for assessment.

The result was that they found A LOT of kids who had not been identified. These were mostly higher functioning kids with IQ scores that were at least in the average range, diagnosed with Aspergers, High Functioning Autism, or PDD-NOS. These were kids who were not receiving specialized services and had not been identified by their doctors.

When the kids who were identified by the researchers were added to the kids who had already been diagnosed, the actual prevalence of ASD in the community was not 1 in 110 or 1 in 100…it was 1 in 38!

Not only is this a surprisingly high number, it is also very interesting in telling us about which kids are most likely to be “flying below the radar” in our communities. The kids who were most likely to be undiagnosed seemed to be not only kids who were higher functioning intellectually, but also girls.

It’s a great study, and a real wake-up call to how often we must be missing kids who are struggling with communication, socialization, and learning right under our noses.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sherry Arce permalink
    June 9, 2011 12:47 am

    I am a family child care provider for 20 years. I have 6 children and a very stimulating program with yoga, music, gymnastics and lot’s of art.I never remember having autistic children at all until maybe the last 10 years. Maybe one. Then in the last 5 years, many.Now, I have 2 kids who have issues, (parents in denial) and parents who have siblings who are autistic or ADDH. What gives? Why do all these kids have problems? Is it the food? Pollution? I think it’s older moms and dads. My daycare parents are all in their 40’s.

  2. Rainna M. permalink
    October 2, 2011 3:55 am

    My youngest son was just diagnosed with autism at 21 months. From this diagnosis, and everything that I have been forced to learn about autism, I now believe that my younger brother (13 years old) and cousin (22 years old) are definately also on the spectrum. Both have many of the basic problems (food sensitivies, delayed speech, insomnia, learning disabilities for one, high IQ for the other, social issues, etc). They have both been seen by pediatricians with concerns about these and other issues, and it seems that red flags were never considered signs or symptoms of autism. Basically, wish we would have known then what we know now about autism.

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