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Is there more Autism?

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Statistics have skyrocketed and everyone is wondering why

In 2000, it was estimated that 1 in 150 children had been diagnosed with autism. Seven years ago, the statistic was 1 in 54, and as it stands today, that number is now 1 in every 44 individuals. This statistic demonstrates a shocking increase in autism – or at least the diagnosis of it.

But what is autism? According to the CDC, the psychiatric bible (the DSM-5) defines it as an impairment in social interaction that affects social-emotional skills, communication with others, and deficits in forming, maintaining, and understanding social relationships – all typically seen before the age of 3. Each state has its own definition for how schools determine eligibility for the condition, but these are all largely based on the DSM. Finally, it’s worth remembering that autism is considered a “spectrum condition.” This means it includes a group of developmental disabilities like Asperger’s and other developmental disorders that impact each individual differently.

A cultural shift in diagnosis

One article noted a Penn State study that found that between the years 2000-2010, there was a significant decrease in the diagnosis of intellectual disabilities that appears to the casual observer to correspond with an increase in autism. Additionally, as it becomes more socially acceptable to have a diagnosis of autism, many families are no longer shy about getting students the educational and social-emotional help they need in order to achieve their educational potential.

So is there more autism?

That’s a tough question to answer and still a highly contentious issue, especially among researchers and some parent advocacy groups. While it’s hard to say if the condition is more prevalent, some argue that the increase is due to genetics, the rising age of parents, diet, or mercury contamination. Whatever your opinion, here is one thing we can be certain of: autism is diagnosed now more than ever before.

Learn more about how your school can create environments that support Neurodiverse Learners' access to education. The Neurodiversity & Inclusion Learning Environments Profile explores four key areas that can affect neurodiverse learners’ ability to thrive in your school or learning environment, including:

  • Communication & Interaction

  • Cognition & Learning

  • Social-Emotional Strengthening

  • Executive Functioning

Get in touch to learn more!

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