Tuesday, May 24, 2005

You Can’t Beat Texas…for the Most Autistic Kids

Well, no matter where you stand on the issue of why autism rates are increasing in the USA (Is it caused by vaccine damage? Is it due to bad parenting? Is it simply better screening?), these stats are shocking. I do wonder, though, given that autism is so broad in how it effects kids (some kids can barely function while others are very high functioning) if these stats create a more frightening picture than need be…fear-mongering being a favourite pass-time of so many organizations.

The full, original data is available The Autism Autoimmunity Project , with numbers for every state. Here are just a couple of the shocker stats:

One of my favourite states, New Hampshire, had the highest overall increase in autism rates: In 2003 there were 585 autistic kids aged 6 to 21. In 2004 there were 912 kids of that same age diagnosed with autism. That’s a 58% increase in one year. And for the 3 to 5 year old age group the number of autistic kids in New Hampshire jumped from 82 to 120 (a 46% increase).

And the state that boasts the most autistic kids? GWB’s home state of Texas. In 2003 there were 10,354 6 to 21 year olds with autism and in 2004 there were 12,412. And for the wee 3 to 5 year olds it jumped from 1,586 up to 1,824.

Back to the 6 to 21 year olds: nationally, if you compare all the kids in that age group in with autism, who were being served by the Individuals With Disabilities Discrimination Act in 1992 and 2003 you jump from 12,222 kids to 140,920 kids…a 1,000% increase.

Something scary is going on, for sure. This can’t be attributed simply to better screening. We can’t put the blame for that kind of increase on overbearing mothers. What we really need to see is a state-by-state, year-over-year analysis to start to understand exactly how these increases have happened.

  • Was there a big jump in one year to the next or has it been a steady increase?
  • Were there any new, widely-used pediatric products introduced over this period (more vaccines? New cough medicine? Some kind of widely eaten convenience food?)?
  • Did anything change in agriculture that could be responsible, like genetically modified foods or new types of pesticides and herbicides?
  • Are there any groups of kids that are more likely to suffer from autism than others (rural versus urban? Hispanic versus Caucasian versus Asian versus versus versus…? Rich versus poor?).
You get the picture.

With such shocking numbers, I’m kind of surprised that the American public hasn’t called on government to figure out why and how kids are being harmed in such huge numbers. I say that yet I have no idea what the autism rates are in Canada, where I live…I guess if we’re not directly impacted it’s just too easy to ignore what could be a huge social problem over the next generation if these numbers continue to rise at the same rate as they have been over the last decade.

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