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Why are more children being diagnosed with autism?

Over past few decades, the number of children who have been diagnosed with autism has soared in the United States and other counties. A few months ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 1 in 68 children have autism, which is a 30 percent increase from what was believed 20 years ago.

But what is the reason for the dramatic increase in autism diagnoses? Are there more children today who actually have the developmental disability? Or is autism simply more recognizable today than it was decades ago?

A new study from Denmark that was published last month in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests that there are some clues, but no definite answers to those questions at this point. 

The study concluded that the changes that were made to the diagnostic criteria for autism in the mid-1990s could account for a third of the increase in the number of people who have been diagnosed with the condition. In other words, many children today who are said to have autism would not have been considered autistic prior to the 1990s.

However, this is not the only reason for the dramatic increase in autism diagnoses, the researchers concluded. That is why it remains vital to keep looking for other causes, they said.

It could be years before scientists are able to fully understand what causes autism and why it has become more prevalent in recent decades, if they ever can.

As we discussed in a past post on our blog, being told that your child has autism can be a very stressful and confusing thing to go through. Luckily, there are many services available to children with autism and their families, including the needs-based federal program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Source: Disability Scoop, “Study Offers Clues To Soaring Autism Rates,” Shaun Heasley, Nov. 10, 2014

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