By now you’ve likely heard about the new Autism study out today in Pediatrics.
a solid study that adds great value to the Autism landscape. To help
clarify questions raised by the study, the American Academy of
Pediatrics has put together a very comprehensive Q&A that is worth checking out.
important to understand about this study is that it represents an
evolving understanding of the entire field of Autism. Keep in mind that
Autism is not just one condition but a spectrum of disorders. It can be
very difficult to diagnose and the goal over the last few years has
been to attempt to screen children as young as 18 months and intervene
as early as possible with behavioral modalities. This is the type of
condition where early identification and intervention does make a huge
So, has there been a true increase in Autism, as
the study suggests? Maybe, may be not. Because of our better
understanding of Autism and our better screening tests, we are
certainly picking up more kids at younger ages. Whether this is a true
increase in rate we don’t know yet but we do know we are doing a better
job in identifying kids who may have Autism, and that is very
And, it’s equally important we remember that not
all children initially diagnosed with Autism actually have it. The
study notes that 38% who are initially diagnosed with Autism “lose the
diagnosis over time.” I can think of 2 reasons for this.
Our diagnostic criteria are constantly evolving so some kids stop
meeting the criteria for Autism but are found to actually have other
2. Our screening tests for Autism are
working as they should. A good screening test will always pull in kids
who on further testing are found to not have the test they are screened
for but have something else.
For either of this situations,
this is still good news for these 38% of children because they are
still identified as having a behavioral issue that needs pursuing and
intervention. That’s significant even if the final diagnosis turns out
not to be Autism.
More studies will need to be conducted to
tease out where we truly are in numbers but studies like this help us
see that we are making progress in a very confusing situation.