Thursday, May 07, 2009

Autism Rising in California: 1200% Increase In Autistic Disorder Cases 1987-2007

San Jose's Mercury reports that a new California state study released this week shows a 12 fold or 1200% increase in classic autism, or Autistic Disorder, cases over a 20 year period. The state's general population grew by only 27% during that same period.

From 1987 to 2007, the number of people with autism receiving services at state-funded regional centers increased by nearly 1,200%, jumping from 2,701 to 34,656, according to a study by the state Department of Developmental Services.


In addition, the study focused on people with classic autism and generally excluded people with other autistic spectrum disorders, such as Asperger's syndrome and Rett's disorder.

The expansion of the DSM in 1994 to include several disorders including Aspergers Disorder and PDD-NOS is usually used by the Autism Epidemic Deniers to support their belief that changes are purely social resulting from the expanded definitions, greater services availability, greater awareness and diagnostic substitution. The focus on classic Autistic Disorder in the California is powerful evidence rebutting that argument.

The study also reports that mental retardation also grew by 95% during that time period, greater than the general population. That figue helps put to rest the argument that diagnostic substitution explains a substantial part of the increase in autism diagnoses.

Autism is rising.

Autism is rising in California.

If past performance repeats the Autism Epidemic Deniers will not be persuaded by the new California evidence.

No evidence will shake the faith of the Autism Epidemic Deniers.

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Tina@ SendChocolateNow said...

Autism may very well be rising, but you can't get that from the report or your article. It claimed that more people are seeking services. It could be they are more aware of what is out there.


Unknown said...

Sorry T. you are going to have to deny harder that than. 1200% increase in AUTISTIC DISORDER cases alone is too big a jump to sluff it off with the "more people seeking services" argument.

Autistic Disorder is the more severe end of the autism spectrum. (Aspergers Disorder expressly excludes persons with Intellectual Deficits and speech delays). The more severe cases would have been more likely to have been seeking services historically than those with Aspergers.

Stephanie said...

I do have to state that "classic autism" isn't what it used to be, either.

Most cases of "classic autism" that are diagnosed today are high-functioning, i.e. they had only a mild speech delay, don't self-injure, are obsessed with a certain topic. They would be diagnosed with Asperger's except for their mild speech delay.

It is commonly stated that the only difference between HFA and AS is that people with HFA have some kind of speech delay. I STRONGLY disagree with this definition because I, technically, have HFA: severe autism with a high IQ, but I am VERY different from people with AS.

Tony Atwood stated that people with AS have also had speech delays but they had AS in every other way except for a mild speech delay, so he gives them the AS diagnosis even though they had a speech delay.

Most diagnoses of "classic autism" today are high functioning; they are not like Conor or like me when I was younger. They will probably do fine without treatment but children today have to get treated for every minor thing, like if they sort their skittles by color (I use this a lot because I've seen many people diagnosed with HFA/AS state, "I do that, too! I didn't know that was an autistic thing until after I was diagnosed with autism! LOL!")

navywifeandmom said...

Thank you for this Harold.

I just had this conversation with someone on a nurse blog that I read routinely and she tried to pull the whole "better diagnosis and more older fathers" excuse (we were 24 and 28 when our daughter was born and I know plenty of kids on the spectrum who do not have older parents).

I am so ashamed of the medical community's unwillingness to even ADMIT that there are more children with autism. Why don't they get their noses out of their books and actually get off their butts and go to the average special ed department in a public school and see for themselves?

J said...

Harold -
I am father to two children born and raised in CA. My oldest was indeed diagnosed with "Classic Autism" and was recorded as such. Today he would be more likely to be classified as HFA or possibly even AS. That was at age 3.
My youngest received a "provisional" diagnosis of Classic Autism due to his age of diagnosis (19 months) and is very obviously on the spectrum. But, he is developing a few words now so it appears that he will also gradually surpass a "classic autism" description. Nevertheless, he is also recorded for the purpose of state services as having Autistic Disorder (not PDD, not AS).
Do with this info what you will.

Anonymous said...

Steve D
Thanks for the anocdote.

Is california to big for a cluster then ?

farmwifetwo said...

Harold, when my eldest was dx'd at 2.5 it was mild PDD since he was non-verbal. When he was 3 and starting words it was "speech and language delayed with global delays".... which the school system loved b/c it's "just a learning disability and we can't do anything until Gr 3" - direct quote.

At 6.5 yrs of age (18mths of fighting the medical system) the dx reads "A mild form of autism spectrum disorder". Or as I was verbally told Non-verbal learning disorder with a speech/language delay.

The word "autism" has to be in the dx to get services especially OT. In Ont OT is ONLY fine motor and only a 3 appt "test" then 3 "this is what you should do appts. Without ASD, the computer he has would be non-existant. She technically cannot deal with sensory issues - b/c it's FINE MOTOR ONLY - even for ASD but since she ignores that... (thank goodness)... we have figit toys, sensory diets etc for both.

So, I do believe there is some over dx'ing to get services. BUT, I also believe there is more to the autism question than just genes. If it was just genes why aren't the boys' dx's the same???


J said...

Anonymous -
I apologize, but I don't understand your question.

Harold -
There is one other highly relevant point to consider.
California has what is known as the Regional Centers, which are in essence the service delivery infrastructure for developmentally disabled people. The RC's were set up and are funded via the Lantermann Act, and are a state-run entity. Once a child passes age 3 and no longer qualifies for Early Start program, the RC's cede a lot of responsibility for services to the school districts for kids who have an ASD but not Autistic Disorder.
There is a de facto denial of services to AS and PDD kids under the guise of "school districts handle those". This includes behavioral services (ABA, et al) as well as OT services and SLT services. The result is that parents are highly motivated to have the Autistic Disorder "label" so those RC doors are left open to them. We, as parents, were advised of this at the time of diagnosis of our youngest child. Needless to say, this causes a major confound and severely limits the ability to draw conclusions from this CDDS report.