Michelle Garcia, PsyD and Associates - "Improving Quality of Life"

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Autism Increasing?

     The rate of diagnosed cases of an Autism Spectrum Disorder has increased by 20% according to a recent report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 1 in 88 is diagnosed with ASD, up from 1 in 110 from 2 years ago, and back in 2002 the rate was 1 in 155. The diagnosis that is currently known as Autism was lumped in with Childhood Schizophrenia until the 1980’s when the DSM-III was published and Autism got its’ own diagnostic criteria. The newest DSM coming out will rework these criteria again, but that is a whole other subject.
     There have been drastic changes in how Autism is diagnosed over the years.  Therefore, the question that comes to mind is; does the increase in prevalence rates come from a heightened awareness, an expanding definition of the spectrum, an actual increase in incidences due to environmental or genetic reasons, or is it some combination of those factors? Dr. Judith Miller Ph. D., training director of the Center for Autism Research reports that she thinks the increase in prevalence rates is due to a combination of increases in the actual prevalence and improved research on this subject which allows us to better identify the disorder at younger ages. A study released on the APA website cites a possible cause of the social isolation associated with Autism as a malfunctioning mirror-neuron within the brain. 
     This research indicates that there is clear biological cause for this aspect of the disorder. There have also been many other studies implicating biological bases for the Autism Spectrum Disorders, and medical interventions have been shown to minimize various symptoms as well.  A study conducted by Philip J. Landrigan in 2010, “What causes autism? Exploring the environmental contribution” speaks about studies that have linked Autism to exposures in early pregnancy to thalidomide, misoprostol, and valproic acide; maternal rubella infection, and the insecticide Chlorprifos.  There have been many other researchers citing correlations between various other environmental factors and ASD symptoms as well. 
     Furthermore, a change in diet and other environmental interventions have been successful in making changes to the symptomatology of individuals diagnosed with ASD’s.  So, there are also indications that environmental causes can play a role in Autism. These are just a few suspicions of the reasons for the increased prevalence rate, but due to the complicated nature of Autism Spectrum Disorders, we are still unclear about a definitive answer.
     What are your thoughts?

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