December 21st, 2009
Reports the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Autism affects about 1 in every 110 American children, a 57 percent increase over the last estimate in 2002, according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The disturbing trend reflects greater awareness and diagnosis of “autism spectrum disorders,” but may also mean more children are being exposed to the still-mysterious causes, said Catherine Rice, lead author of the CDC report.
“These new numbers are concerning,” she said. “We’re struggling to find answers. We know complex genetic and environmental factors are involved, and we have much to learn about the causes.”
The CDC, Rice said, considers autism “to be a significant public health issue.”
Advocacy groups immediately called for more federal funding for research and services.
“We need meaningful action now that acknowledges the scope of the problem and allocates the resources necessary to take the fight against autism to a new level,” Bob Wright, cofounder of Autism Speaks, said in a statement.
A Pennsylvania law that went into effect this year calls for parents of autistic children to get up to $36,000 in annual health-insurance benefits.
But many families say the mandate isn’t yet working.
Autism includes a range of developmental disorders of varying severity, but the hallmarks are an inability to interact and communicate socially, and compulsive interests and behaviors.
Mental retardation, once thought to be an integral part of autism, was present in only 40 percent of the children identified as autistic in 2006.
Find out more at the Inquirer.