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When I was graduating from medical school in 1982 (in that last century!!) and beginning a 4 year residency in pediatrics, the incidence of autism was 4:10,000. In the 1990’s, that changed from 1:2500 to 1:1000 over the decade. The incidence has risen steadily since they began tracking in 2000, sparking fears of an Autism epidemic but this increase stems from two things: a growing awareness about Autism, and changes to the diagnostic criteria. In 2013 the American Psychiatric Association merged 4 previously distinct diagnoses under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Autistic Disorder (the most severe form), Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Delay-NOS (not otherwise specified), and Asperger Syndrome (the mildest variant). ASD is often referred to as being “on the spectrum”, a phrase we have all heard or used.
Autismspeaks.com states “Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication, as well as unique strengths and differences.”
In 2018 the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System notes that 1:66 children in Canada are affected (1:59 per the CDC in the US). 1:42 boys 1:189 girls.
Why boys are affected significantly more often that girls is poorly understood.
The causes of Autism are not clear but are thought to be due to genetic, non-genetic, and environmental influences. Let me be clear: VACCINES PLAY NO PART IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF AUTISM. All evidence to the contrary has been disproven/debunked to date.
I was disturbed to read that 50,000 teens transition each year into the adult world and lose their school based services. I will find out more later about what is available to them in adult life in Canada.
ASD presents diagnostic challenges. There are no blood tests or simple medical tests. Diagnosticians look for a broad but specific group of symptoms, and this requires direct observation combined with an expert exam and assessment. Reports from parents, teachers, and other caregivers play an important role also.
This is a lot of information to process so I will continue in a few days.