Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD has been diagnosed for almost a century. But it was only recently that a study was conducted to definitively put a number on how many people in the United States have the condition.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, severity, and functional abilities of individuals with ASD. The symptoms typically manifest in early childhood, and the severity varies widely, from mild social difficulties to severe communication impairments and repetitive behaviors. Individuals with ASD may also have sensory sensitivities and struggle with changes in routine.
The causes of ASD are still not fully understood, but research has shown that it is likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some studies have identified specific genetic mutations that are associated with an increased risk of developing ASD. Other research suggests that environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins, may also play a role in the development of ASD. However, the exact mechanisms by which these factors contribute to the disorder remain unclear.
ASD can have a significant impact on the individual’s life and family. Early diagnosis and intervention are critical to improving outcomes for individuals with ASD. Treatment may involve behavioral therapies, medication, and specialized educational programs. With appropriate support and interventions, individuals with ASD can lead fulfilling and productive lives, but it is important to recognize that ASD is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing support and management.
Alison Singer, the executive director of the Autism Science Foundation, co-wrote a study on ASD together with experts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The study was published in the Public Health Reports Journal.
The study centered on identifying the number of kids and adults under the autism spectrum and to try and categorize them according to their symptoms. This is tricky since autism has a whole “spectrum” of behaviors exhibited. So the paper based its identification of which side of the spectrum someone belongs on metrics created by international experts.
A commission of international autism experts recently created a definition of profound autism as people who have an IQ of 50 or less and are unable to communicate by speaking.
Based on this definition of profound autism, Singer and the CDC’s study found that about a quarter of kids diagnosed with ASD have profound autism. In numbers, that’s about 110,000 elementary-age kids in the United States.
Aside from identifying how many kids have profound autism, the study also discovered that milder forms of autism have been more common compared to profound symptoms. From 4 out of 1,000 kids in 2000 diagnosed on the milder autism spectrum, the number jumped to 14 per 1,000 in 2016. In comparison, the rate of diagnosis for profound autism in 2000 was 3 out of 1,000 kids and 5 out of 1,000 in 2016.
Despite the findings of the study, some autism experts are hesitant about the profound autism diagnosis. Autism is very tricky to diagnose in the first place because a kid might have an IQ of more than 70 but is non-verbal, so how would he figure in the profound or milder autism definitions?
The inherent problem with diagnosing and therapy for autism is the symptoms that put them on a spectrum. Every kid is different and may exhibit different behavior. What kids with ASD need are doctors who can make tailor-fit therapy for them.
Research on this difficult disease is still ongoing. Until today, we don’t have a complete understanding of where autism symptoms originate. All we can do is support our loved ones under the spectrum in every way we can.