Autism rates stabilize in one state
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.