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Autism numbers increase

BY ABIGAIL MEIER | APRIL 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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As an increased number of families throughout the United States experience the first few moments of their child being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the reason for that increase is still unclear. 

One in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, according to a new study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showing that numbers are on the rise with a 30 percent increase. Two years ago, 1 in every 88 children were diagnosed.  

Joni Bosch, a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics behavioral pediatric nurse, said sometimes autism can be difficult to diagnose at a young age because some people can possibly grow out of it. 
Bosch said the reason for the increase in diagnoses cannot be exactly identified, but increased research and awareness may be a factor in creating higher numbers. 

“It is not as cut-and-dried as people think it is; it’s tricky,” Bosch said.  “Some people grow out of it eventually.  Sometimes, it is very obvious that nobody will disagree, but for others, it may be a process of tests to determine the severity of the child’s autism.” 

On March 24, the CDC released a new report based on an evaluation of health and educational records of all 8-year-olds in 11 states. 

“We need to do a better job at screening all children for signs of developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder and referring suspect children for further evaluation and treatment,” said Royann Mraz, a UI clinical associate professor of pediatrics.

The report showed that many children who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder are overwhelmingly male. An estimated 1 in 42 boys have autism, compared with 1 in 189 girls.

According to the CDC, the study is based on a number of early diagnoses based on developmental disabilities, intellectual disability, or a child’s IQ.

Compared with almost a decade ago, the study showed that nearly half of children diagnosed with autism have an average or above-average intellectual ability, with an increased IQ above 85.

“We are also diagnosing children with milder autism spectrum disorder, whose first symptoms may not be very apparent until they start school and show social difficulties,” said Mraz. 

Kathleen Kingman, an active member of Iowa City’s Autism-Asperger Syndrome Family Group and a parent with a 14-year-old daughter with autism, said during the beginning stages of her daughter’s diagnosis it was a very difficult transition. 

“I always try to remind other parents that their child is a unique individual and they are the experts on their own child,” Kingman said.  “They will find a combination of puzzle pieces to bring their child to success.”

Kingman said with community support her daughter was able to find what exactly fit her daughter’s needs and today has grown out of special needs.  Kingman looked at her daughter and said she has come a long way, while her daughter smiled and echoed in the background, “Well, yeah — duh.” 

“I think the best success comes from just having a lot of hope, really knowing your child and having support,” Kingman said.  “It takes a lot for a family to go through something like this, but that’s where support of a community can come in.”

Kingman said they were lucky to be located in a community with resources from the University of Iowa for research, the UIHC for their specialists, and community support.

“The earlier you start the therapy, the early intervention can make the difference in the world, but if something doesn’t work it doesn’t mean you give it up for ever,” Kingman said.  “She has things that she needs to work on, but so do I and so do you.”


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