Patt Morrison for December 22, 2011

Autism diagnoses spike: an epidemic in the making?

Therapist and Art

ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images

Therapist and Art teacher Anais Cheong (L) instructs autistic child Noel Cabrera at Dora Alonso Special School, on February 11, 2008, in Havana.

The number of children diagnosed with autism in the United States is twenty times higher than it was a generation ago and the disease affects approximately one percent of all children, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Scientists are striving to determine an explanation for the spike. One possible reason could be that the percentage of people with autism has always been the same, but previously went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. If the disorder is simply being more widely identified, then concerns about a possible epidemic can be disregarded. But as scientists and doctors examine the condition, parents and family members still struggle to take care of those affected. Many adults with autism have trouble fitting into society, are unable to maintain gainful employment, and struggle with associated high costs of healthcare. While some try to live with the disorder, others seek recovery through various treatments such as Applied Behavior Analysis. Although a lot of issues surrounding the disorder remain uncertain, one thing is clear: the way we diagnose, treat, and think about autism appears to be changing.

WEIGH IN:

How sufficient is our understanding and acceptance of people with autism? Have you ever wondered if you or a loved one might be autistic, but undiagnosed? What more can be done to improve recognizing and treating this disorder?

Guest:

Alan Zarembo, staff writer, Los Angeles Times; author of series, “Discovering Autism”


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