“Autism epidemic doubted”

Susanne Rust:

Indeed, special education figures that are being used to suggest an autism explosion are faulty and confounded, said Paul Shattuck, a researcher at the university’s Waisman Center and author of the study, which appears in today’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.

From 1993 to 2003, statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education showed a 657% increase in autism across the country – an explosive jump that signaled an epidemic to many.

But Shattuck discovered that, at least in most cases, the numbers are not only misleading, they’re likely inaccurate. On one hand, they don’t support a dramatic increase in autism prevalence, but on the other, the figures could be underestimating the absolute number of children with the condition.

One thought on ““Autism epidemic doubted””

  1. I found it interesting that Paul both discounted the findings of huge percentage increases because they are based on educational/administrative numbers, and stated that the true number of cases in school-age children are probably higher than what those education numbers show. These points generally illustrate why some people (esp those who are not statistics-literate in the least) claim the increase is exaggerated, but others claim that our true numbers of cases are much higher than is currently counted.
    If one takes the 1 in 166 children number that Paul uses to claim an underestimate in numbers, that still presupposes an increase in ratio/percentage of autism spectrum presence. I don’t know if Paul reads this forum ever, but I would like to see how the data and the original study show both of those (generally considered opposing) views to be true.
    Even the rate of 1 in 166 that the (above-linked) article claims Shattuck accepts as true is a MUCH larger occurrence of autism than was previously diagnosed (even medically or through true population numbers, and not just administratively or educationally). It is kind of a no-brainer that the (true prevalence) numbers have not really grown from the 18 Wisconsin schoolchildren receiving special ed services for autism in 1992 to the 2,700+ who now get special services based on autism. As Paul says, that would show a 15,000% increase. But the accepted increase from 1 in 2300 prevalence to 1 in 166 still shows huge growth, and supports the “epidemic” estimations.

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