Pediatric Therapy Corner: Keep Calm and Think Critically: The CDC's 1 in 68 Autism Numbers
Editor’s Note: This is an EXCELLENT synopsis of the “1 in 68” issue, and why we need not panic along with some in the mainstream media. Definitely worth “favoriting” and sharing with colleagues and the parents/guardians of the children you serve.
by Shannon Des Roches Rosa
Reprinted with permission of the author as it appeared on the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism blog
Yesterday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a media briefing to announce and discuss readjusted estimates for autism prevalence: 1 in 68 children. But what does that estimate actually mean? Well, that takes some critical analysis, digging, and sifting, which we’ll walk you through, starting with the CDC’s Dr. Colleen Boyle’s opening statement:
“CDC estimates that one in 68 children has been identified with autism. This estimate is based on information collected from health and special education records of children who are eight years old and living in 11 communities in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, north Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin in 2010. These data are from CDC-sponsored autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network. The new estimate exceeds previous overall estimates, roughly it’s 30 percent higher than our last estimate of one in 88 children. To better understand the why, there’s an urgent need to do more research. There’s also an urgent need to put these findings to work for children and families. More is understood about autism than ever before, but these numbers are an important reminder of the need for answers and to use CDC’s data to help children now.”
Unfortunately, many news outlets seemed to stop there, which is why you’ve probably seen sensationalistic headlines such as “Why Did Autism Surge 30%?” and “CDC Confirms Dramatic Increase in Autism Rates.” These proclamations completely ignore the CDC’s Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp’s comments, later in the briefing, that essentially autistic people have always been here — the CDC is just getting better at identifying them; plus the CDC’s understanding of just who qualifies as autistic has changed over time: