Skip to comments.Autism rates hit 'epidemic increase' in N.J.
Posted on 11/26/2012 9:27:53 AM PST by Coleus
The rate of autism in New Jersey has doubled in six years to one in 49 children — and one in 29 boys — an “epidemic increase” in a disorder that has confounded researchers for decades. Two percent of children in the state are now identified with autism by their eighth birthday.
“The change was overwhelming in magnitude,” said Walter Zahorodny, the principal researcher in New Jersey for the federal study released Thursday. “Now it’s beyond an emergency.” Nationally, one in 88 children now has autism, a jump of 78 percent between 2002 and 2008, the new study found.
While at least part of the increase is attributed to enhanced awareness and better detection, the root causes of the escalation remain as mysterious as the disorder itself. Few in New Jersey are impervious to its effects, from the public expense of educating so many children to the private struggles of families whose children may never become fully independent adults.
New Jersey’s rate, as in the past, is among the highest in the nation. It is now second only to Utah’s, based on the 2008 data for 14 states reported Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Zahorodny said children here do not face a greater risk of developing the disorder. Rather, he said, health professionals and educators “are more attuned than elsewhere to the signs of autism.” It is the increasing rate of diagnosis in New Jersey and across the nation that has advocates concerned.
Autism New Jersey, a statewide advocacy organization, termed the rise “extremely alarming.” More resources are needed to train teachers and other professionals who work with people with autism, from diagnosis through adulthood, said Linda Meyer, its executive director. A Bergen County private school for children with autism, the Reed Academy in Oakland, enrolls 31 students but has a waiting list of more than 300, said its executive director, H. Todd Eachus.
One mother said she was beyond worrying about the causes of autism now that her daughter is 16. “When my daughter was diagnosed, it was one in 150 nationally. Now it’s one in 88,” said Barbara Strate, who manages an Internet community for families affected by autism that has 2,000 members.
Her greatest concern: “What happens to those one in 88 nationally when they become adults? What will happen to my daughter in five years when that yellow school bus no longer stops at our house?” Autism is a complex disorder that affects the brain’s development early in life, and is believed to have genetic and environmental causes. It interferes with a person’s ability to communicate, learn and form relationships. Behavior is often focused and repetitive.
The symptoms vary in combination and intensity. While some people with autism have normal or higher-than-normal intelligence and are seen as quirky and socially inept, others are unable to speak, sometimes bite, hit and scratch themselves, and require constant supervision. Clinicians refer to an “autism spectrum.”
Eighty percent of the children with autism in the New Jersey study were identified as having the most severe form of the disorder, said Zahorodny, who is an assistant professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. They weren’t “borderline” cases. Boys were more than five times as likely to be diagnosed with autism as girls, both in New Jersey and in the rest of the country. Differences among racial and ethnic groups were not significant in the state, he said.
“People want answers to what’s causing autism and why we’re seeing such an increase in autism diagnoses,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC director, said in a telephone news conference from Atlanta. “So do we.” There was some good news in the study: The age at diagnosis has dropped to 4 years nationally, and 3 years and 2 months in New Jersey. Early intervention holds the most hope of enabling children to reach their fullest potential. Researchers say the goal is to lower the age of diagnosis to 18 months.
“It’s critical to ask quickly” if parents have a concern about their child’s development, said Dr. Colleen Boyle, director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Don’t wait.” Frieden cautioned that the rise in rates “may be entirely the result of better detection.” But others said that could explain only part of it.
“We know that the increase is partially due to increased awareness,” said Susanne Buchanan, Autism New Jersey’s clinical director. “Probably some is due to increased parental age. There’s some increased risk due to premature births.” But that accounts for only half of it, she said.
The study was based on a survey of educational and medical records for the more than 7,000 children who turned 8 in Union County in 2008. Previous studies, in 2000, 2002 and 2006 in New Jersey, included children who turned 8 in four counties. Zahorodny said he was confident the 2008 data represented a “true rate.” New Jersey had an average of eight to 10 records for each child, compared with three or four in other states, the study said. That may indicate that children here are evaluated more thoroughly and are more likely to be identified with an autism disorder.
“Better detection, particularly among children who may not have come to attention in the past, including girls and minorities,” may have contributed to the higher rates here, said state Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. The state’s high rate does not reflect a migration of families from other states to take advantage of the services provided here, Zahorodny said. More than 80 percent of the children identified with autism were born in New Jersey, a higher rate of in-state births than other states in the study.
The tracking studies are useful to policymakers as they allocate state and federal resources to autism diagnosis and treatment. A full report of 2006 New Jersey data is expected to be published shortly. Researchers are currently analyzing 2010 data and beginning to collect 2012 data.
If you give Social Security to a child for having autism, you will find a lot more of it!
“Yeah my kid acts weird. Is there some money in for me?”
Funny how you never heard anything about autism until school districts and the social security admin stopped rubber stamping disability benefits for ADD and ADHD.
I’m no expert.
If the actual cases of Autism are increasing at the rate statistics show (Vs. rate of diagnosis), I wonder if it is an evolutionary condition of our race. Technology and morality (lack there of) have driven social interaction, empathy and passion for selef righteousness down among the human race in general and in America for certain. I have wondered if there is a correlation.
I can’t say and have no proof there is any correlation. I don’t even know much about the scientific and medical details about the failings in the brain that cause the symptoms associated with Autism. But I know several families with kids of varying degrees of the disease. If there is a cause, it must be something universal and developmental beyond simple genetics.
If autism is really getting worse, then I would expect that more children would be just sitting there staring like the worst case of autism. On the other hand if they are playing with definitions or diagnoses, then you will have more kids diagnosed with autism but no more cases of kids completely detached from the world.
If I can coach my kid to act weird, is there some money in it for me?
New Jersey was not amused.
Our food is killing us, and a lot of that is caused by changes due to government. It’s that simple.
Down here it is called “Crazy checks”. Lots of people have their kids disrupt the school classes so they can claim more government money.
Looks like Michael Savage was right after all.
She seems to think that because her daughetr is in Gubmint schools, she is the gubmints problem - THAT's what is wrong here.
Our daughter is (relatively) high-functioning Autistic, and we home-school her because she is OUR responsibility, not the public schools.
Sure, our concern is: "Will she be self-supporting as an adult"?
We pray and work towards that, but if not - then she will live with us, like she does right now.
And for those not familiar, it's not just a matter of: "Acting wierd" - it goes much deeper than that.
= New Jersey has so expanded the definition of “autism”, that nearly every child is now inflicted.
= Give us tons of tax money.
Autism is a spectrum disorder
If the studies say that 80% of the cases diagnosed are on the severe end of the spectrum, then you can be sure it is not just kids acting “flighty”
I suggest you volunteer some time at a group that works with autistic kids if you think kids are just too active undisciplined and misunderstood, or can be coached into fooling the doctors who diagnose them
I have to suspect an environmental factor is causing this, our body tissues are loaded with toxins from the environment and the products we consume or just use everyday
and a tiny effect on a fetus at a critical day of its development can be devastating
My son bears the facial features of a child whose birth mother consumed alcohol during a 3 day window of his fetal development when his facial features were being formed
He gave 2 reasons: 1. Many of the older cases of Autism were diagnosed as MR and now we do a better job of identifying Autism.
2. There is social pressure to diagnose as Autism because with Autism there is hope that with treatment a fairly “normal” life can be lived but that is not true with MR and that parents would rather say their kid is Autistic than MR.
I would add that we have greatly expanded what is considered Autism to the point that any kid that is a little socially awkward could get the label.
I don't know if the DR was right or not but he seemed to make sense.
If you have a child that has Autism, there aren't many that can fake it.. I am the co-Guardian of my grandson that is a low functioning Autistic child.. The pressure of the demands in raising the boy, eventually broke my daughters home and family apart.. However, I have no idea what NJ uses as Autistic Symptoms, and Tendencies, to have an opinions.. This horrible affliction is mindbogglingly, in it's affects on the children, and families.. I hope we can determine where it originates and can put an end to it's progression..