When 1 in 150 is really 1 in 67
Raymond W. Gallup & F. Edward Yazbak, MD, FAAP
On February 8, 2007 the CDC released “New Data on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) from Multiple Communities in the United States.” (1)
Since then, most people and the press have been under the impression that in the United States, the “new” CDC- reported ASD prevalence rate of 1 in 150 was a recent discovery that was current for 2007 when indeed it was not at all. The study did not document a prevalence of 1 in 150 among children born now or five years ago. The study revealed that among U.S. children born in 1994, thirteen years ago, 1 in 150 on average had a spectral disorder.
According to the official press release:
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported findings today from the first and largest summary of prevalence data from multiple U.S. communities participating in an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) surveillance project. The results showed an average of 6.7 children out of 1,000 had an ASD in the six communities assessed in 2000, and an average of 6.6 children out of 1,000 having an ASD in the 14 communities included in the 2002 study. All children in the studies were eight years old because previous research has shown that most children with an ASD have been identified by this age for services.”
The U.S. Department of Education has recently released the official figures for autism/ASD by age and state for school year 2006-2007, in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s requirement that comprehensive annual reports be published and presented to the United States Congress.
Children born in 1994 and who according to the 2002 CDC study had an ASD prevalence of around 1 in 150, probably started first grade in the fall of 2000.
In Table I, we compared by state, the number of 6 year-old children with Autism/ASD in U.S. schools in 2000-2001 with those similarly diagnosed children of the same age who attended school in 2006-2007. The percent increase in that particular group since the CDC’s acclaimed 1 in 150 prevalence figures is listed by state in the right column.
All states, except Alaska and Oklahoma had increased first grade enrollment of children with spectral disorders. Thirty five (35) states more than doubled their load and consequently their financial needs and in New Mexico, the number of ASD students quadrupled between 2000 and 2006. The District of Columbia did not report.
Parents of children with autism would probably agree with Dr. Yeargin-Allsopp’s first two points and most of them would gladly share their thoughts and ideas about the causes of autism, if she cared to listen.
In the same press release (1) CDC Director Gerberding was quoted as saying: “Our estimates are becoming better and more consistent, though we can't yet tell if there is a true increase in ASDs or if the changes are the result of our better studies.”
No one asked Dr. Gerberding why, when many at the CDC knew that their own 2002 study yielded a prevalence of 1 in 150 among eight-year old children, the CDC approved, distributed and advertised an “Autism A.L.A.R.M” (2) in January 2004 that proclaimed that “1 in 166 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.”
Dr. Gerberding did not volunteer and it appears that no one thought of asking her why the CDC kept the results of the 2000 and 2002 studies secret for so long or if a third CDC study had been done in 2004 that was still “Top Secret” for undisclosed reasons.
In any case, if according to the CDC, the ASD prevalence rate was 1 in 150 on average among children born in 1994 and if the number of 6 year-old children with ASD known to the U.S. Department of Education indeed increased by 124% nationwide over the last six school years, then it is likely that among children born in 2000 who are now registered in U.S. schools, the prevalence rate of autistic spectral disorders is around 1 in 67, on average. Now that would be a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.
Since the CDC 2002 study results were released in early 2007, no one in authority has bothered to correct the false impression that the “new” prevalence was current. Every day tens of newspaper articles and news items discuss the alarming increase in autism “that has now reached 1 in 150” and promptly reassure people that it is not related to vaccines and a mercury preservative. It will be interesting to see when the head of the CDC’s autism program will reveal to the Nation that the prevalence of autism and other spectral disorders is really more than double that estimate.
In Table II, we have compared the number of 6-21 year-old students with ASD who attended U.S. schools in the different states, the District of Columbia (DC) and Puerto Rico in school years 1992-1993 and 2006-2007.
The U.S. Department of Education started providing enrollment statistics on pre-school children age 3-5 in 2000. In Table III we compare those original statistics with the recent figures for school year 2006-2007.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders clearly outlines the required criteria for the diagnosis of autism and autistic disorders. The manual’s 4th and last revision was introduced in 1994. Since then, the diagnostic criteria of DSM-IV have not changed in any way. There have been incessant claims that the increasing prevalence of ASD is only due to the less stringent “newer” diagnostic criteria. We disagree and we have shown that indeed DSM-IV criteria are more numerous and specific. (3)
In any case, it is hard to believe that anyone would even think that in this day and age, school districts would be willing to pay thousands of dollars to provide specialized remedial services to children and adolescents who do not have a spectral disorder and distinct special needs. More ludicrous is the idea that these services would be perpetuated without a convincing reason year after year.
Table IV lists the number of students aged 6 to 21 who were registered in U.S. schools since DSM-IV and the yearly increases since then.
Table V lists the yearly increases in the number of children who are 3 to 5 years old and who carry the diagnosis of autism or ASD.
The following graph illustrates the increase in the number of children with autism and ASD during the last 15 years, in fact since autism was listed as a separate category by the U.S. Department of Education.
We believe that the alarming trend that we have described must be halted and reversed before another generation of children is lost and thousands more families are destroyed.
Shame on them who have chosen to close their eyes, their ears and their minds to this tragic and serious problem!
Raymond W. Gallup
Edward Yazbak, MD, FAAP
October 5, 2007
© VAProject 2007