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Autism May Be More Common Than Thought
Date:10/5/2009

ir child's autism as mild, and 320 parents described it as moderate. Just 90 parents said their child's autism was severe.

Cynthia Johnson, director of the Autism Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, attributed the increase to better diagnostic criteria and an increasing awareness of autism.

"This is more data that adds to what's already in existence that shows autism spectrum disorders are common," Johnson said.

As to the large percentage of children who were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in the past, but whose parents said they currently were not autistic, Johnson said the reasons behind that finding were not clear.

She theorized, though, that "symptoms may lessen with early intensive services, especially for milder cases."

The authors also suggested that autism might have been considered during the initial diagnosis of a child but later dropped if the child turned out to have another disorder.

"We do know that individuals with autism can have a diagnosis early on and then lose that diagnosis, and we don't know the factors that could explain this," Dawson said. "Is it having received good, early behavioral intervention? Or, is there a group of kids that have better biological outcomes? Or, it may have something to do with how kids get diagnosed at different ages. Maybe as kids develop, they may not be getting the same kind of evaluations."

The study also found that the odds of receiving an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis were four times higher for boys than girls, and that non-Hispanic black and multiracial children were less likely to have an autism spectrum disorder than white children.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on autism.


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