Thursday, August 13, 2009

Autism Diagnostic Rate

I've written many times that the diagnostic rate for any condition is not the same as the actual prevalence. Examples of sudden "explosions" in diagnoses, abound, from various cancers to mental health conditions. In some cases, diagnoses were impossible. In others, conditions were clarified and reclassified by improved science.

Anyway... these are for consideration. I generally distrust some of the sources, but the links are interesting enough that people can read them and reach their own conclusions. The odds are, most people have conclusions and will decide to agree with those supporting an existing bias.

From Left Brain/Right Brain is this good link:

New Statistics Due. Autism Rate 1 in 100?

And here the above blog's predictions about the media coverage are somewhat proved:

David Kirby on HuffPost

I don't care who you do or don't believe. What matters is we are about to be buried by another round of scary statistics. Parents are going to hear "1 in 100 children born today will have autism." The broader definition about to be adopted by the DSM-V will make this even more likely. It will be interesting to see how scientists, parents, and politicians react to the evolving data.

Each time I attend a conference, I meet dozens of people over 40 recently diagnosed with an ASD or with ADD/ADHD. I've started studying scholars I encounter and asking myself, "Would this person be diagnosed with an ASD?" Trust me, you watch enough scientists and you start to think most of them meet the criteria for something!

As I finish my doctorate this year, in a matter of months, I am considering leaving behind all autism-related research. I am headed towards something else, I believe. The nature of public discourse as it relates to science will always be fascinating. When I mention "autism research" I am seldom asked about what I actually research. Instead, people ask me about Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy, and David Kirby.

The "1 in 100" ratio will only increase the frequency of those questions.

It is a good time to shift research interests. Or maybe career paths. Time to have more fun exploring new topics.

2 comments:

  1. I would hate to lose a researcher as yourself. God knows we could use some sense in the Autism Field, particularly those w/a dx.

    It just kills me that the major Autism support groups (Cure Autism; Autism Society of America) have NO ONE on the spectrum on their boards.

    However, you must do the right thing for you and your family.

    Whatever you do, I know that you will excel. Excell?

    Go far!

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  2. I agree--we are about to be hit with a wave of "awareness" about the "new" high rate of autism.

    "Trust me, you watch enough scientists and you start to think most of them meet the criteria for something! "

    At least a few are very likely candidates for HFA/AS.

    There is a big straw man argument in play. Some say that people argue that autism has always been with us at the same rate as today. Hard to say (especially since we don't know what the rate is today). But it is a very safe bet that autism has been "with us" at a rate much higher than was previously diagnosed.

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