Closing the Gap: Emerging Methods of Identification and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Over the last 2 weeks, I discussed some of the key research for 2022.   However, there was an additional study recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics that I wanted to bring to your attention.  A team from Rutgers University looked at the trends in the identification of children who have been identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by the age of 8.  There are 17 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sites across the U.S. which estimate the rates of ASD based on the combination of medical diagnoses and records from schools and health care providers. New York and New Jersey saw, between the years of 2000 and 2016, a tripling of Autism rates. 

Nationally, the CDC in 2021 reported that the rise in ASD rates has been similar to New York and New Jersey.  One in 54 children have been diagnosed with ASD by the age of 8 in 2016 compared to 1:150 in 2000.  Why is that?   

I believe that there is a much greater understanding and awareness of ASD. I remember when Ryan was a young child, probably around the year 2000, and a staff at Wegmans asked me about him.  I explained that he had Autism and the person thought that I said that he was “artistic.”  I don’t think that would happen today.  

The Rutgers study did find that there was a sharp increase in the number of 8-year-olds diagnosed with ASD who did not have intellectual disabilities. There was a fivefold increase from 2000 to 2016 compared to a twofold increase.  I believe that in 2000, children with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) were the ones initially seen as having a challenge and the population of children without ID were overlooked.

Today, I believe that physicians have gotten much better in identifying the children with ASD without ID.  Next week, I will talk about what is and what is not a risk factor for ASD, including vaccines, genetics, and viral infections. 

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