In November the federal National Center for Health Statistics released the preliminary results of a study that showed between 2014 and 2016 the number of 3 to 17-year olds diagnosed with autism rose by 23%, yielding a new autism rate of 2.76%, or 1 in 36 children, and 3.63%, or 1 in 28 boys. This catastrophic news was greeted with complete silence by the federal government, the major media, and the largest autism organizations. Neither Autism Speaks nor the Autism Society of America found the results worthy of a press release.
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The data is part of the National Health Interview Survey, and can be seen here: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db291.pdf
The study authors came to the conclusion that there is nothing to be concerned about because when they compared the year-to-year growth they did not see a statistically significant change with the techniques that used. They chose not to look at the 23% increase from 2014 to 2016. Yet a single case of the measles, which was considered a routine childhood disease a generation ago, can generate screaming national media attention and spur public health officials to action.
In addition to the disturbing autism numbers, the number of children with "intellectual disability" appeared to hold steady over the study period, "other developmental delay" increased from 3.57% to 4.55%, and all "developmental disability" increased from 5.76% to 6.99%, a statistically significant increase that one would think would be worthy of some concern by federal or medical authorities. Instead: crickets.
An analysis of the survey results were formally published on Jan. 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association here: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/266...
What other major debilitating disorder that federal data shows is growing at an exponential rate is greeted with a shrug? In 2016 billions of dollars were mobilized nearly overnight to fight microcephaly in Brazil, ostensibly caused by zika virus. Further research showed no connection between the two and that there was no threat to residents of the US from zika. Yet we have a real, growing and massive health threat from autism and we spent a measly $200 million a year on research, less than the annual payroll of the New York Yankees' outfield.
Autism is not a gift, it is disabling disorder that cuts short the life of many, and thwarts the lives of those who have it in almost everyway. And the statistics make that case: 86% of all adults with autism are unemployed, 44% of people with autism have intellectual disability, 40% cannot speak, 33% have seizures. It is well past time to take autism seriously.