Has the rate of autism truly increased in the last 50 years or so or is it just that the classification of autism has gotten broader and as such the prevalence seems larger?
“Got Questions?” is a new weekly feature on our blog to address the desire for scientific understanding in our community. We received over 3000 responses when we asked what science questions were on your mind. We answered a few here and the Autism Speaks Science staff will address the other themes we received in this weekly post.
In the last two decades reported autism prevalence has increased by more than 600% and a number of studies have sought to investigate the cause(s) of this dramatic increase in autism prevalence over time. Recent findings suggest that at least a portion of the increase in prevalence can be attributed to changes in diagnostic practices, earlier age of diagnosis, and increased awareness of autism over time. However, converging evidence also suggests that while these factors account for a portion of the increase, they cannot alone explain the dramatic rise in autism prevalence. Thus genetic and/or other environmental factors likely play a role and are the subject of numerous research projects currently supported by Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks’ Chief Science Officer, Dr. Geri Dawson, will appear on the radio show “Radio in Vivo” on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EDT/8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. PDT. To listen, go to http://wcomfm.org and click the link to the streaming signal on the home page.
The show will cover a wide range of topics including autism prevalence, genetic and environmental factors, new directions in research and treatment, and Geri’s areas of specific expertise – early detection and early intervention. The purpose of the program is to provide information and education.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts about the program!
UPDATE (7.19.10): The show is now online. You can access it at http://radioinvivo.net – click on the Schedule/Program Archive link, scroll all the way to the bottom of that page, and you’ll see the link to the podcast, as well as links to Autism Speaks, the AGP, and the PBS webinar.