The Autism Avalanche

A Melbourne paediatrician told me today that 70% of her clients present with an autism spectrum condition, including autistic disorder, Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS.  She makes new diagnoses of ASC at least 2-3 times a day.  Where are they coming from?  Why the avalanche of new cases now, and what effect will the DSM5 have?

According to a report released last month by the US Government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) up to 1 in every 88 children has an autism spectrum condition.  This prevalence has increased by 78% since 2000, from 1 in every 150 children.  

Why such an increase?  The jury is still out, but it could be largely because of increased awareness - that is parents teachers and health care professionals are more aware of what to look for, and are referring ever younger children to professionals for diagnosis.

Of course, scientists the world over are examining a number of potential environmental and genetic reasons for the increase, and deserve more funding to continue their important work.