Autism rates have tripled. Is it now more common or are we just better at diagnosis?


Autism rates among children in New York and New Jersey metropolitan. areas tripled from 2000 to 2016. according to a study published Thursday in the journal Pediatrics.The authors, a team from Rutgers University, calculated the trend by analyzing estimates.

mfrom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the number of children diagnosed. with autism spectrum disorders by age 8.

Although there is no medical test for autism, the CDC has established. Anetwork of 17 sites across the country that estimate autism rates based on. Acombination of formal medical diagnoses and records from schools and health care providers.

Nationally, the increase in autism rates is similar to trends in New York.And New Jersey, according to a 2021 CDC report. 1 in 54 children were diagnosed with by age 8 in 2016, compared to 1 in 150 in 2000.

Advances in diagnostic capabilities and greater understanding and awareness. Of spectrum disorders appear to be largely responsible for the increase. The Rutgers researchers said. But there’s probably more to the story: genetic factors. And perhaps some environmental factors may also contribute to the tendency.

Exactly what those other factors are is still unknown, but researchers. Are clear on at least one fact: vaccines have nothing to do with autism.

“We’ve known for sure, for years, that vaccines don’t cause autism,” said Santosh Girirajan. An associate professor at Pennsylvania State University who studies the genetic. Underpinnings of neurodevelopmental disorders and was not involved in the new study.

“On the other hand, what we really don’t know is: What are the real, clear environmental factors that you should avoid?”

The Rutgers study found that in New York and New Jersey. The share of 8-year-olds diagnosed with increased faster than the share of thos. Without intellectual disabilities — a fivefold increas. From 2000 to 2016 compared to a twofold increase.

Cases of without intellectual disability — in other words. Children with average or above IQs who exhibit features of autism, such as impaired social skills. Repetitive behaviors and communication difficulties.


Such phenomena may be less obvious to parents, teachers. Or doctors than children with intellectual disabilities. Who have more difficulty performing daily tasks on their own and are more likely to struggle in the classroom.

The new study also found that although racial disparities in autism diagnoses have narrowed, they persist. Historically, black and Hispanic children.

New analysis shows that among children without intellectual disabilitiesHowever, the gap has narrowed among children with intellectual disabilities.

“Autism [rates] have increased as a result of declining disparities, but that doesn’t mean disparities. Have disappeared,” said the new study’s author, Josephine Shenouda, an epidemiologist at Rutgers.

Shenouda and her team recommend that all children be screened. Wor during routine checkups. With their pediatricians, echoing the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines.

“Many lead pediatricians in most major regions will perform universal. Screening as part of their developmental surveillance. For children during their child-well visits. However, this is not happening consistently, and even when.To appropriate services – That too is lacking,” he said.


But screening more children and broadening the criteria for diagnosing. Also creates more opportunities for misdiagnosis, Girirajan said. It can contribute more to the growing rate.

“You can look at a child and you can’t tell if it’s ADHD or or just mild intellectual disability. And what happens is you have to use more standardized tests. To identify children with similar characteristics,” she said.

Beyond improvements in diagnostics, genetic factors can. Drive cases in their own right, experts say.

Most of the risk of developing autism — about 83%, according to one analysis — comes. From inherited genetic factors. Girirajan estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 genes contribute to autism. Although only 100 have been consistently linked to the disorder.

A child can inherit risk factors from one or both parents, and older parents carry a higher risk of having children with autism.

“We see trends in parents waiting to have children over time. So certainly some of the increase can be explained by parental age,” said Jennifer Durocher. Clinical associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami.

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