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Increasing Rates in California

From the San Jose Mercury News:

Autism in California increases twelvefold

By Sandy Kleffman
Updated: 05/06/2009 08:12:02 PM PDT

California saw a twelvefold increase during the past two decades in the number of autistic people who are receiving services through regional centers, a new state study reveals.

Notice this is the number of people receiving services. This may or may not reflect an increase in autism diagnoses, a decrease in social stigma, or other factors. Also, in a slower economy, more people seek public assistance.

From 1987 to 2007, the number of children and adults with autism served by regional centers rose from 2,701 to 34,656, notes a study released this week by the state Department of Developmental Services.

This is a huge increase, but I would like to know the percentage increase. I realize that California did not double in population, so no matter what this is an exponential increase in autism services. Still, will read the full report to compare percentage increases to those in other states. The differences in service rates should be interesting to analyze.

The article does indicate only the most disabling forms of autism were counted. This means that the increase is not reflective of the surge in Asperger's diagnoses.

The statistics include only people who are receiving services through regional centers, which represents about 75 to 80 percent of the autistic population, the study estimates.

The numbers also include only those with classic autism. For the most part, people with other autistic spectrum disorders, including Asperger's syndrome and Rett's Disorder, are excluded from the statistics


  1. Interesting what they left out. Their numbers are not correct, then. Typical.

  2. Actually, the omission of AS, Rett's Disorder, and PDD-NOS is standard for statistical purposes. In my own research, I do not count PDD-NOS. The lack of etiology and shifts in screening instruments mean that there are some shifts in diagnoses as training of diagnosticians is improved (or at least evolves).

    Classic autism is less open to debate between diagnosticians, while I have witnessed heated and lengthy debates between skilled psychiatrists trying to decide if a student was AS or PDD-NOS or something else entirely. You need as much agreement as possible for statistical replication.

    Also, studies of California should always include maps to determine geographical differences. When this was done with breast cancer, the clusters were found to be localized to the 16-counties around S.F. Clusters (or the lack of) are important knowledge. I need to see if MIND has such maps from these numbers. I'll be at U.C. Davis this summer and see what I can request.


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