Autism: More Common Than We Thought?

By Jenn Savedge, MNN

There is no doubt that the number of children diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically over the last few years. Is it because more children are actually autistic or is it because teachers and parents are simply better at detecting the signs and symptoms of the disorder? Probably a combination of both.

Considering the Cause of Autism

Recently, a group of researchers set about to determine just how prevalent autism is in our modern society. Their results were shocking, even to them. The international team of investigators from the U.S., South Korea and Canada evaluated 55,000 children in Goyang, South Korea, and found the prevalence of autism to be 2.64 percent or about one in every 38 children.

The biggest difference between this study and similar autism studies is that the researchers evaluated all school children not just those who were already flagged as having potential for behavioral or academic problems.

Do Toxins Cause Autism

“Two-thirds of the children with autism that we ended up identifying were in mainstream schools unrecognized, untreated,” said Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at The George Washington University and one of the study’s authors.

The study’s authors stressed that the large percentage of children with autism in this study roughly two and a half times the current rate for the U.S. is not an indication that this particular South Korean town has a greater incidence of autism than anywhere else in the world. Rather, they think the numbers are so high because they were able to look at the general population, not just at kids who have already been diagnosed.

“There’s no reason to think that South Korea has more children with autism than anyplace else in the world,” said Bennett Leventhal, deputy director of New York’s Nathan Klein Institute for Psychiatric Research and another of the study’s authors.

The study’s primary message, Leventhal says, is that “if you really go look carefully amongst all children everywhere, you find that things are far more common than you previously expected.”

What do you think? Do you think that the current rate of autism in the U.S. could be as high as 1 in 38?

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Kenneth L.
Kenneth L.2 years ago

'Epidemic of autism'?

."The autism “epidemic” is set to spread further starting in May 2013, when the next revision of the diagnostic manual (DSM 5) will be published. The DSM 5 definition of an “autistic spectrum” will cast an even wider net, capturing many people now considered to be normal or to have another disorder.... During the past two decades, child Psychiatry has already provoked three fads -- a tripling of Attention Deficit Disorder, a more than 20-times increase in Autistic Disorder, and a 40-times increase in childhood Bipolar Disorder"
Dr. Allen Frances, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, in Psychiatry for 46 years

"We currently have a manufactured epidemic of psychological disorders, and the drug industry is at least partly to blame." Dr. Joanna Moncrief, Psychiatrist

"...there is a huge potential for many unusual kids to fall under this umbrella (of diagnosing 'early risk syndromes') and carry this label for the rest of their lives" Dr. David First, Psychiatrist

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

thanks for the information

Siti R.
Siti R.3 years ago

interesting... thanks!

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W.3 years ago

I think it's a little unethical to be diagnosing such young children - especially if they are only showing traits. If it's barely visible then there's every chance it will self-correct. In addition, many traits can be brought about by many other factors than autism. Is true autism common? Oh yes. But it's very difficult for an on-looker to identify what social dynamics are at play, so making a medical or psychiatric diagnosis based on such situations is questionable in my mind.

Rhianna Martin
Rhianna Martin3 years ago

thank you for this article. i am taking part in a volunteering scheme for children with autism under five years old next week and prior to this my knowledge of autism was quite non-existant. i am excited and enthused to start the scheme next week to try and change at least one child's life if i can through interaction and social techniques.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.3 years ago

Joyce may be right.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.3 years ago

very sad

Faith Billingham
Faith Billingham4 years ago

thank you for this article

Faith Billingham
Faith Billingham4 years ago

thank you for this article

joyce dean
joyce D.4 years ago

& thank you for this great article, & everyone for sharing their personal experiences, ideas, opinions, questions, & every comment which spreads the awareness & shares the care!

The incidence of autism is growing, we must identify & so all we can to isolate, & counter, the cause, & identify all those factors that exacerbate this condition (& alzheimers, parkinsons, cancer) & stop the escalation of these debilitating diseases.