A recent Associated Press article in The Chronicle ("Autism 'epidemic' may be all in the label") cast doubts about the reality of the current autism epidemic.
The article correctly pointed out that one in 150 children have some form of autism. However, the author said that the newer diagnoses of Asperger's disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) skewed the numbers to where it appears there is an epidemic when none exists.
The author went on to accuse parents of seeking out the diagnosis of autism to get services for their child. Along with this irresponsible charge, the author appeared to be making fun of the newer diagnoses and the parents by saying, the parents told "almost comical stories about kids who frequently pick their noses, douse food in ketchup or wear the same shirt day after day."
As an autism trainer with the Judevine Autism Program at East Central Regional Hospital at Gracewood, I was offended by the article's tone. Children with autism, Asperger's disorder, Rett syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, PDD-NOS and other related disorders have serious developmental disorders that affects every aspect of their lives and their parents'.
To say that the diagnosis of autism grew from one in 2,000 to one in 150 over 20 years because we have expanded the diagnosis does not make sense if you look at the numbers. At the 1-in-150 level, there would be approximately 491,300 U.S. children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. If we went to the 1-in-2,000 level, we would have 36,850 children with ASD. That would be an increase of 454,450 children because of the Aspergers and PDD-NOS diagnoses as the article claims! Not likely.
Any form of autism is a serious disorder and must be taken seriously. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would spend more time trying to find a cause of autism instead of trying to deny the increase in numbers, perhaps we could have fewer cases.
Gary J. Heffner, Augusta