MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 03/30/2012 ( 107 moms have responded )
During the briefing for reporters Thursday on the CDC’s latest findings that one in 88 children in the U.S. (one in 54 boys) has a diagnosis of some brain disorder that falls on the “autism spectrum,” there was a polite but revealing dust up. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conceded –in response to a question– that the increase in cases could be the result in changes in the way such disorders are diagnosed. Then Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, the biggest activist organization concerned with the disorder, said he begged to differ. Maybe half the cases, Roithmayr insisted, must be due to some as yet identified environmental factors.
Last January Dr. Fred Volkmar, director of the Yale Child Study Center, created a far bigger controversy when the New York Times reported he had said new definitions of autism about to come from The American Psychiatric Association could effectively end the autism surge. ''We would nip it in the bud,'' the Times quoted Dr. Volkmar.
Volkmar was not available today, but I interviewed his colleague Dr. James McPartland, who did not back down from that view.
“People who might have been diagnosed with something else in the past are now being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder," McPartland said. By “something else,” McPartland means problems that used to be labeled as ranging from “mental retardation” to “learning disabilities.”
“The way we diagnose autism spectrum disorder has changed,” McPartland continued. “We're more inclusive. We include people with more cognitive ability and less severe problems then we have in the past.”
Anyone who spends time around children diagnosed on the “autistic spectrum” knows that it is indeed wide. Many have the severe withdrawal and lack of ability to engage in social interactions that characterize classical autism. But others seem high functioning and verbal.
Scientists have spent a lot of time looking for genetic changes that might account for disorders labeled as autism. More than 500 genes have so far been implicated indicating that no clear genetic cause will be implicated.
As for environmental factors, there are strong suggestions that older parents, especially fathers can increase the risk as can multiple births. But none of that could account for more than a fraction of the enormous increase (78 per cent since 2002 when the CDC started tracing autism.) The alleged association with childhood vaccinations has been widely discredited by scientists although a few hard core activists still cling to it.
So that takes us back to diagnosis. Whatever it is called, there can be no doubt that a lot of kids need special attention – and the sooner they get it, the better off they are. What a problem is called matters less than how society copes with it.
I agree that it is not necessarily a genetic cause but can be. I do agree, as well, it more often comes from the father. My daughter's bio is 11 years older than me. He was 33 when I conceived my daughter, I was 22. He had a history of "bad choices" which included but, were not limited to, administration of hard drugs. I know this is where my daughter got ADHD from, he has it most definitely. Now I am not saying this to be true for ALL children with a cognitive impairment. For some though, such as mine, yes.
It seems to me they are no closer to figuring out the answers but do realize why it has become so popular. Where in the past there were multiple labels from mental retardation to brain damaged (what ADHD used to be called), there was no main "umbrella" to place them under.
Now, they have developed much more sensible labels and placed many under the Autism Spectrum. Where each of these disorders are cognitive related and often have very similar and, at times, overlapping behaviour and cognitive issues associated with them.
It appears that the definition of Autism has been broadened, to include much more, thus increasing those diagnosed. Where in the past, you had to have very strong and apparent behavioural and developmental issues, now they can be anywhere from mild to severe.
I agree that this explanation, does give insight to why more and more children are suddenly being diagnosed with ADHD/ADD/OCD/Asperger's and the alike.
What are your thoughts? Do you think they are on to something, of why it has become such an increased phenomenon? Or do you believe it has to do with something else?