Did you know that autism prevalence has increased 178% since 2000? Unfortunately, around 1 in 44 children in the U.S. have autism. The million dollar question is: is autism being overdiagnosed? The answer is: it's complicated.
There was a time when autism was something you only heard about. Nowadays, there's a high chance you know someone diagnosed with autism, or there may be some kids in your child's class at school who have autism. There's a chance you or your child are autistic.
Two factors that might account for the increased diagnosis rates are:
Some experts believe that better diagnostic methods are allowing us to find autism in more individuals, as well as at a younger age. However, other experts disagree and say that it's possible autism is being overdiagnosed.
There are several reasons why autism is diagnosed more often now then in the past.
The diagnostic process has changed a lot over the last several decades, and the changes may have contributed to the increased autism rates.
In the 1940s, autism was first identified as occurring in children. Now experts can recognize autism in individuals of all ages.
A 2015 study in Denmark showed that changed actices could account for up to 60% of the increase in autism diagnosis in children born between the years 1980 and 1991.
The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has reclassified several previously separate conditions under the umbrella of "autism spectrum disorder (ASD)".
Yes, it's possible for an autism misdiagnosis to occur. For example, an allistic person may be mistakenly identified as autistic. A person can also be diagnosed with a different disorder when they actually should be diagnosed as autistic.
Below are a few characteristics occasionally confused with autism:
Sometimes people with other psychological diagnoses might have traits of autism, such as:
Individuals with lead poisoning may also mimic the developmental delays that someone with autism might experience.
Data from the CDC show an increasing trend in autism prevalence between 2000 and 2018. As shown in the table below, these numbers make it clear that autism is being diagnosed more, but the cause is not clear.