As a pediatrician, the number that jumped out most to me [from the CDC report] is that only 44% of children with ASD diagnoses had a documented developmental evaluation by the time they reached 36 months of age. Though some ASD patients can present with very subtle findings early on, it worries me that 89% of them had documented concerns about their development by the same age. It seems that a large proportion of these patients are going too long without being evaluated even after problems are noted. Screening for delays in speech, motor, and social development during infant and toddler well-child checks is one of the most important things medical providers do, with the goal to get children into necessary therapies as promptly as possible. For many of these patients, it appears they didn’t get the attention and help they needed as early as they ought have.
Of course, what we would most like to know is what’s responsible for the rise in autism. It’s very frustrating to see these data and have little explanation for them. For all the pseudoscience and controversy, one of the few things we can know with certainty is that vaccines aren’t responsible. (In an amusing addendum to the week’s news, Donald Trump made the exciting career leap from laughingstock phantom gubernatorial candidate to laughingstock public health expert. With a series of tweets linking vaccines to the rise in autism, Trump proved to the world he understands medical science just as well as he grasps his own political appeal.)The Sacramento Bee reports:
More than 16,000 California children entered kindergarten this school year without vaccinations because of their parents’ personal beliefs, up 15 percent from the prior year and more than double the number from six years ago, according to new figures from the California Department of Public Health.
The numbers were released as California battles an outbreak of measles – a disease mostly eradicated in California following decades of mass vaccination – involving almost 50 people. Medical experts say waning vaccination rates are one cause of the outbreak.
“It’s very concerning to me and to those who work in vaccines,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a specialist in pediatric diseases at the University of California, San Diego. “The rates have been steadily going up.”