New Government Studies Suggest Autism Rate Increase

Monday, October 5th 2009, 9:56 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

UNDATED --There's a stunning spike in the number of children diagnosed with autism. The federal government now says one in 100 American children has it. That's a 50 percent increase from the government's last estimate, just two years ago.

Government agencies say the autism rate in boys is now one in 58, but some doctors are questioning if these new numbers are accurate.

Christina Newendorp knew her son Evan wasn't developing like other kids by the time he was 2-years-old.

"Typically a developing child will say, ‘mommy, look at that, an airplane.' He did not do that. He did not bring objects to show me. Like, ‘here's a book mommy, I want you to read this,'" said Christina Newendorp.

Evan was diagnosed at 3-years-old with autism. His younger brother, Skylar, also has autism; typified by a lack of social interaction and a lack of language skills.

"It just does seem that there are more children being diagnosed with autism today, than ever before," said Christina Newendorp.

Two new government studies prove Christina's gut instinct is right.

Federal researchers now estimate one in 100 kids has autism. The Centers for Disease Control, two years ago, estimated it affected one in 150 kids. Therapists say the increase is due to more awareness and earlier diagnosis.

"I think that the criteria is a little bit broader," said Suzette Werner Jones, an occupational therapist.

But some experts say many kids have been improperly diagnosed. 40 percent of parents told researchers their kids were diagnosed with autism, but no longer had it.

"There are differences in how some physicians apply a diagnosis compared to others, so there's gray areas here," said Dr. Max Wiznitzer, University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.

But many therapists back up Newendorp's belief.

"In the last five or seven years, it's just become much larger, just a huge increase, an unbelievable number of children," said Suzette Werner Jones.

Newendorp hopes this study knocks down barriers.

"It ought to cause all of us to push for more research funding than we already have," said Christina Newendorp.

Christina says her kids have made tremendous progress, thanks to years of therapy.
The federal government is spending a lot of money to address the increase in autism. The Health Resources and Services Administration will get $48 million next year for autism programs, a 14 percent increase.