Recent Blog Articles
Back to the future: Psychedelic drugs in psychiatry
Children not yet vaccinated against COVID-19? What to do
HIV rates rising: Could new forms of PrEP help?
Careful! Scary health news can be harmful to your health
Post-pandemic weight loss: There’s an app for that
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia by telemedicine: Is it as good as in-person treatment?
Prediabetes diagnosis as an older adult: What does it really mean?
Is blood sugar monitoring without diabetes worthwhile?
Large review study finds low risk of erectile dysfunction after prostate biopsy
Does exercise help protect against severe COVID-19?
In brief: Is the rate of autism rising?
Is the rate of autism rising?
If you consider only certain statistics, you might conclude that children in advanced industrial societies are suffering from an epidemic of autism. Figures published by the U.S. Department of Education and based on the number of children receiving special education show an exponential rise in the number of cases during the 1990s. But a critical study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that these numbers are unreliable, and a careful English survey confirms that children born in 1998 are no more likely to develop autistic disorders than those born in 1992.
The American data, collected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and presented annually to Congress, indicate that there were 4 cases of autism per 10,000 children in 1993 and 25 cases per 10,000 in 2003 — a sixfold increase. But these findings contain internal inconsistencies. Apparently, as many children are being newly diagnosed at age 15 as at age 8, yet the symptoms of autism appear before age 3, and most studies show that the diagnosis is usually made before age 8. Oddly, the government's figures also show a drop in reports of new cases between ages 11 and 12, just when an increase might be expected because children are making the difficult transition from elementary to middle school.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.