700 - Puzzle - Seamless PatternErie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein today called attention to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that demonstrates a rise in the number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). The report, presenting data collected in an Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) study, estimates overall ASD prevalence at 11.3 per 1,000 (one in 88) children aged 8 years old.[1]

Using data from 14 ADDM sites around the U.S., the report indicates that many children with ASDs do not receive a diagnosis until they reach preschool or kindergarten age, missing opportunities for earlier therapies that potentially could improve communication and socialization. The report also found that ASD prevalence varies by racial/ethnic group as well as by sex; approximately one in 54 boys and one in 252 girls living in the ADDM Network communities were identified as having ASD’s. Based on the study, the estimated prevalence among non-Hispanic white children (12.0 per 1,000) was significantly greater that that among non-Hispanic black children (10.2 per 1,000) and Hispanic children (7.9 per 1,000).

“These numbers should serve as wake-up call to all parents and caregivers,” said Burstein. “We are now seeing that autism and related spectrum disorders are nearly twice as common as they were only 5 years ago, and the incidence continues to rise. Early detection and treatment is imperative, as are supports for persons with ASDs and their families.”

ASDs are a group of developmental disabilities characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication and by restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.[2] Symptoms usually are apparent before 3 years of age. However, tracking the prevalence of ASDs over time is challenging because of the complex nature of the disorders, a lack of biologic markers for diagnosis, and changes in clinical definitions over time.

“Just as the incidence of these disorders continues to rise, we must be increasingly vigilant in watching for their symptoms,” added Burstein. “Be on the lookout early in the child’s life. Parents who notice stereotypical signs, such as flapping hands, inappropriate vocalizations, or compulsive behavior, should discuss their concerns with their child’s primary care provider. Autism spectrum disorders, however, are individualized in their presentation; every caregiver should pay close attention to their child’s ability to communicate, socialize, and interact with others in ways that are appropriate for their age.”

Locally, the 13th annual Summit Walk for Autism Awareness is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, 2012. The goal is to raise $250,000 to support agency programs. Visit www.summitwalk.org for more information.

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