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Is Autism Really Still on the Rise?

is autism really still on the rise

Is Autism Really Still on the Rise?

Comments by US President Donald Trump have sparked a dialogue about whether there has been a significant increase in autism among children. The president reports that there has been, but many argue that the surge may simply been in more cases being reported, instead of an actual increase. 

On February 14th, Betsy DeVos met the Secretary of Education met president Trump along with many principals, parents, teachers from various towns and states of US. When Trump got an opportunity to ask questions to his guests at a special educations center in Virginia, he asked a question to a principal whether they have noticed that autism in children has increased largely. The principal replied that there has been a dramatic increase and that those within her school many children have autism.

Trump continued as to what’s going on with this disorder and how there has been an increase. The principal replied that according to her every 1 in 68 is diagnosed with this condition. About the heightened rate of autism there was a discussion. Since Trump has previously linked vaccines and autism falsely many believed that he was using this platform to speak against vaccinations.

Trump claimed during the Republican Debate of September 2015 that autism has become an epidemic. According to him vaccines have a great impact on autism. This comment of Trump was officially debunked by CDC. They explained that many studies show that vaccines and autism are not related to each other and the link is not supported by any evidence.

Autism cannot be diagnosed through any clear cut method such as brain scans, blood tests. The diagnosis lies in the criteria in the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.

In this a wide and far reaching array of symptoms is covered in this diagnosis and this is intertwined with social and communication development.  According to some the symptoms could be multiple repetition of words, getting irritated when there is a change in the routine and delayed development of speech. Since some of these symptoms are attributed to neurotypical childhood hence it is difficult to diagnose.

According to Helen Leonard, expert in childhood disability states that when diagnosing autism in children some degree of subjective interpretation is important. Hence across the board diagnosis is not the same. According to one doctor a particular child could be diagnosed with autism but according to another the same child would not be diagnosed with the spectrum disorder.

The criteria for diagnosing the condition have been surrounded by debate because over time the criteria have changed. The age at which the doctors are able to diagnose the condition has been changed by the American Psychiatric Association. Thus they have broadened the diagnostic criteria. Also certain disorders that were not included under autism have eventually been included. Therefore many argue that not the condition but its diagnosis has increased. To prove this a study was done where in it was noted that almost 59 percent children not diagnosed originally with this spectrum disorder, under the 2012 diagnostic guidelines would have been diagnosed.

According to some the powerful effort to diagnose the condition came from the increased awareness of the spectrum disorder. This is especially the case in those children where in doctors would have missed or ignored the symptoms. This possibility could be a potential factor. According to one study it was noted that higher prevalence of autism spectrum disorder is in those states that have higher education related spending. 

May be the condition is more recognized by the better trained educational staff and specialists. Also the prevalence was more in those states in schools there with more paediatricians and health centers which might have improved recognition of the condition. Doctors are realizing that what was actually thought to be a primary disability was autism.

Hence there could be a possibility of rise in the spectrum disorder although compared to the increase in the reported cases this rise could be just a miniscule.