The most recent numbers to come from the Center for Disease Controll and prevention (CDC) are that 1 in 88 children in the U.S. is afflicted with autism, and that number has grown since only a few years ago. According to data reported by Discovery News, the CDC estimated that 1 in 150 kids were autistic in 2002, increasing to 1 in 110 in 2006. The demographics to see the largest increases in autistic behavior have been blacks and Hispanics, and boys are almost five times more likely to be diagnosed as autistic as girls. In addition, areas of the country seemed to effected differently, with 1 in 47 children being diagnosed as autistic in Utah, while only 1 in 210 are diagnosed in Alabama. All data in the study, the “CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report”, was compiled from of 8-year olds in 14 different areas around the U.S.
Although the numbers are troubling, there has been a much broader education in what autism is and how to recognize it, both by teachers and education professionals and by the public at large. So some of the increase is likely due to an increased identification of what are called autism spectrum disorders, delayed social and communication skills, delayed language development, obsessive and compulsive behaviors, and smaller indicators like “face blindness”.
With such large discrepancies in the data sets according to geographic location, ethnic background, and gender; greater funding should be directed toward research of autism’s core causes. How do children in Alabama differ in nutrition, behavior, and environmental variables to children in Utah, where the autism rates are much higher? What is it about girls’ biology or psychology that they are diagnosed at such significantly lower rates? These kinds of questions may lead us to some answers about why autism occurs in children, and what can be done to prevent or mitigate it.