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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Diagnostic Substitution or True Increase?

Jillian Jorgensen writes at The Staten Island Advance:
Eden II Executive Director Dr. Joanne Gerenser, who has worked with the autism community for 30 years, said part of the increase is clearly explained by the widening spectrum. Asperger syndrome -- which typically involves social challenges but does not affect language or intellectual capabilities -- was added to the spectrum in 1994, bringing in an entire group of people previously not counted.

"The second variable that's clear, is that services appear to be more readily available with an autism diagnosis," Dr. Gerenser said. "I think that some people may be getting a diagnosis for autism for that reason, if their kids were on the fence of being diagnosed with something else."

But the increase also feels genuine, Dr. Gerenser said. The enrollment at Eden II has grown from 15 to 20 children at the start to 150 school-aged children now. "And the list of people waiting for services continues to grow," she said.

That growth, she said, can't be explained by the widening spectrum.

"Eden II serves those kids who are most significantly autistic," she said. "This can't be explained by that expansion into Asperger's, because those kids wouldn't be referred to me." 
For previous posts on the possibility of a true increase in autism prevalence, see here and here.