Are more children being diagnosed with autism?

Is Autism becoming an epidemic?

In recent times this has been a question many ask, and we can understand why.  Less than two decades ago the statistics for autism was 1:166 and today the US is talking about 1:54 children with Autism. Looking at the numbers it is easy to say: “the prevalence of autism has risen steadily in the world”.

The term “autism epidemic” is being used more often as the condition seems to be more widespread now.  It seems to be affecting more families yearly.  But is the truly the case?

Let us have a closer look at some of the reasons why the numbers have changed so much in the past two decades:

  • Technology has made it easier for the authorities to track diagnostic data in a variety of sectors.
  • In some countries educational services have been made available to families with autistic children which has encouraged many parents to activity seek help for their children. Prior to this service being available families often refrained from getting help and chose to rather keep their children at home – hidden from society.
  • Governments changed legislation and, in some countries, AUTISM only got listed as a diagnosable condition in the 90’s so prior to the 90’s children with autism in the school sectors where not counted.
  • Changes in diagnostic criteria – with each successive edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, the criteria for diagnosis of ASD, has expanded. The diagnosis changed from being a uniformly severe disorder to a condition with extremely mild forms.  Each time the diagnostic criteria has changed, or expanded, the prevalence of ASD has jumped.
  • Heightened awareness of the condition has led more teachers in the early childhood development sector to identify development delays and this has helped get more children diagnosed at younger ages.
  • Heightened awareness made it easier for medical professionals to diagnose autism.
  • Population growth.

Conclusion:  the statistical data is not accurate! 
It was not correct when they said 1:166 and it is not right now with a 1:54 ratio.  None of the numbers given are accurate because the world has absolutely no way of knowing exactly how many children get diagnosed daily and/or how many children have autism that remain undiagnosed.  So technically there is no real way for us to say whether autism is becoming an epidemic or not.

User Avatar
Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.