The Autistic Journalist

Using words to explain the mind

Autism rates stabilize in one state

with 7 comments

Courtesy Vincent Du, Reuters

News outlets have publicized the increasing rates of autism over the last few years, with recent data suggesting about 1 out of every 100 children is on the autism spectrum. A new University of Wisconsin study within state schools suggest those rates may be stabilizing; since increases seen in the number of students in autism special education programs were limited to schools that had very few autistic students when the study began in 2002 (data was collected through 2008). Schools that started with 1 percent or more of its students in autism special education programs saw little or no change in enrollment when the data collection finished.

While people who commented on the findings didn’t offer any conclusions on the future of autism diagnoses, one autism expert not involved in the study theorized that variance across schools is decreasing because autism detection has improved, even though not all students enrolled in autism special education programs may actually be on the spectrum.

Unfortunately, I don’t see this study affecting the discussion heavily. The mentality of most people affected by a disability or disease is their own well-being. That’s not to say selfishness runs rampant, people simply don’t worry about other issues that aren’t directly affecting them. Most readers I know who visit this site live in the neighboring state of Minnesota, where it’s not known if a similar pattern to the Wisconsin study exists. Also, because the study focused on the frequency of autism diagnoses and not any potential causes, readers might shove this story aside.

Studies in general aren’t too compelling since the juicy parts lie in the numbers and not necessarily the emotional aspect of the disorder. Finding that tell us rates may be stabilizing in one state doesn’t get us much farther in the information cycle, since many who follow the autism spectrum likely have noticed the increase in diagnoses and accuracy. The Wisconsin study simply confirms what may have been anecdotal suspicions, but it could serve a cue to other states to see if the Badger state is an outlier or a precursor to autism across the country.


Written by TheSportsBrain

October 28, 2010 at 1:56 pm

7 Responses

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  1. When I was reading this I found myself wondering if more parents with autistic children are choosing homeschooling instead of public schools, thereby flattening out the numbers. As awareness has grown, and frustration with our country’s public school system has also grown, I’ve noticed more and more of my friends homeschooling their autistic kids. We’ve considered that as well. Just a thought – not sure if it would ring true or not, but I’d sure like to see the real numbers somehow…


    October 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brandon Blietz, Mike Peden. Mike Peden said: A University of Wisconsin study suggests what was once anecdotal theories on rates of autism. […]

  3. 1% stabilisation appear to be comforting, but if you were to factor in that many autism cases go undiagnosed – for every 3 diagnosed people, a further 2 are missed, then that figure of 1% could be significantly higher.

    And if the link between anorexia and autistic thinking can be proven to be autism, this figure rises again.

    Al Feersum

    November 4, 2010 at 9:13 am

    • Hello, Feersum!

      I appreciate your British perspective, and so would Mike (the Autistic Journalist of the blog’s title).

      Adelaide Dupont

      November 5, 2010 at 12:25 am

      • Hi Adelaide,

        As someone with autism myself, I feel that I have to find the truth about my condition, especially when there are so many ‘experts’ out there that don’t keep up to date with ‘current’ research. Hence the statistic that 1 in 4 Americans still believe that vaccines are the cause – even though there is overwhelming evidence against it.

        I don’t think it helps that the US promotes a culture of unregulated free enterprise either – which is why there are so many people calling themselves experts selling quack ‘cures’ – when we know for a fact that you can’t cure the genetic expression of a condition. In the UK, we are so tightly regulated that this rarely happens – but this regulation is also a little stifling – it does delay progress.

        Of course, it’s also very easy to provide fabricated ‘evidence’, especially to desperate people who don’t understand the concept of ‘peer review’.

        Then we have the organisations that claim to speak on our behalf, when in reality, they don’t actually listen to what we say, and follow their own agenda.

        So, it’s down to us, to educate people about our condition, and get them to realise that what they believe is wrong. Sadly, I’m preaching to the choir – we know the answers, and they don’t, but because we’re ‘retarded’, what we say carries no merit, except to ourselves.

        I despair sometimes, I really do.

        Al Feersum

        November 5, 2010 at 3:10 am

      • The one truth I’ve found about autism so far: is that there is not one truth! And there are so many many truths!

        I admire your looking for truth and truths very much.

        And it’s better when truth is in the hands of the people who need it and the people who have the power to change it. Yes?

        Adelaide Dupont

        November 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm

  4. The one truth I’ve found about autism so far: is that there is not one truth! And there are so many many truths!

    Sadly, there are more lies than truths.

    I admire your looking for truth and truths very much.

    And it’s better when truth is in the hands of the people who need it and the people who have the power to change it. Yes?

    Yes. But sadly, the people who need the truth, have it, but the people who have the power, don’t. And they continue to abuse their power to spread fallacies to the ignorant, reinforce their opinion, and become ‘authorities’ that people look to for answers.

    How can we ‘purchase’ celebrities to speak with our voice, or sway political opinion in our favour, when there are wealthy organisations claiming to speak on our behalf, and have the ears of know-nothing celebrities and the political influence to ensure their continuation?

    We cannot compete. Our voices continue to go unheard, drowned out by the media-wealthy who are pursuing their own agendae. Even when we shout, we are considered a minor annoyance, that’ll go away if ignored. ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ – and of course, we are children in their eyes, so anything we say contrary to thier view is just a childish tantrum.

    How dare we claim to know what is good for us?

    Al Feersum

    November 6, 2010 at 9:51 am

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