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CDC Reports Autism Rate Increase, But You Won’t Guess Why

On Friday, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reported a roughly 1 percent rise in the prevalence of autism in 2014, but according to researchers, changes to the questionnaire’s format likely had an impact on the survey’s results.

The last National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) was conducted by the CDC for the years 2011 through 2013, but for the 2014 survey, the CDC included what Forbes reports to have been a tweak that “is the reason” for 2014’s nearly one percent climb in 2014.

The estimated rise, which went from 1.25 percent to 2.24 percent, raises the number of children ages 3 to 17 afflicted with the disorder to 1 in 45 — up from 1 in 80.

NCHS epidemiologist Benjamin Zablotsky, the report’s lead author, and his fellow researchers indicated that in prior years surveyed, parents with children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder likely reported the disorder as a developmental disability instead of autism because it’s listed first on the survey, The Washington Post reported.

While the disability question still came before the ASD question, the one which directly followed it asked parents whether their child had an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

Autism Society of San Francisco president Jill Escher was quoted by the Post as having said that the year to year numbers are not what concerns them, it’s the “decade to decade” numbers and the “fact that we have 1 in 45 children with a very serious neurological condition” — which Escher likens to a “catastrophe by any measure.”

It’s not the year to year numbers that concern us. It’s the decade to decade. The fact that we have 1 in 45 children with a very serious neurological condition is a catastrophe by any measure

Paul Lipkin, director of medical informatics at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Interactive Autism Network, was quoted by Forbes as having pointed out the possibility of yet another variable in the change in reported autism rates across the nation as he said, “we know that professionals, parents, and the public also are more attuned to ASD and its identification at all ages.”

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