Autism Leads Rise of Developmental Disabilities

Jun 23, 2011
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A government study recently reported an increase of 17% of developmental disabilities in the past decade rise. The two disability that have led this increase are autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “Developmental disorders rose to 15 percent of U.S. children, or about 10 million, in 2006-2008, from 12.8 percent, or about 8 million, in 1997-1999, according to the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — published in the journal Pediatrics.”

The rise of developmental disabilities maybe because of premature births, and women having children at older ages. With one in six children in the U.S. diagnosed with a developmental disability, this will increase demand for further health and education services. “Because the prevalence of some of these developmental disabilities is increasing, there’s going to be an increased demand on the health system for these kind of specialized medical services,” Sheree Boulet, the study author and an epidemiologist at the Atlanta-based CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

National Health Interview
In order to collect the data (on children ages 3 to 17 years from the 1997 to 2008), the National Health Interview Surveys were utilized. These surveys were representative samples of U.S. households and asked parents to report diagnoses of ADHD, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, seizures, stuttering or stammering, moderate to profound hearing loss, blindness, learning disorders and other developmental delays. Out of all of the disabilities accounted for, autism had the largest increase, rising nearly fourfold to 0.74 percent of children in 2006-2008 from 0.19 percent in 1997-1999. Autism disorder hinders a person’s ability to communicate and engage in social interactions. Researchers also found the number of children with ADHD rose 33% to 7.6 percent from 5.7%. ADHD was “chiefly responsible” for the higher overall incidence of developmental disabilities in the U.S.

Michael Rosanoff, associate director of Public Health Research and Scientific Review for the nonprofit advocacy group Autism Speaks in New York, said some of the increase in autism could be explained by better diagnosis, more awareness by parents and doctors and less stigma surrounding the condition making parents more likely to report their children having the condition. Still, more studies are needed to identify the environmental factors that may cause autism, he said.

Autism Speaks:

Author: Jenny Carlton