Researchers report an increase in the number of children with autism spectrum disorder



Researchers from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC), as part of the Network of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor autism and developmental disabilities (ADDM), report an increase in the number of children in Tennessee with autism spectrum (ASD).

The researchers published their findings at the CDC Weekly report on morbidity and mortality series on December 2.

Initially, the team was led by Dr. Zachary Warren, director of the VKC Institute for the Treatment and Research of Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) and director of the Department of Developmental Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics, and Alison Wehorn, project director. ADDM in 2015 and recovered in 2019 with a $ 1.6 million grant from the CDC to conduct population-based studies on the prevalence of autism in Central Tennessee.

Since then, the Vanderbilt ADDM team has collaborated with the larger CDC network, which spans 11 communities in the United States, to present distribution data every two years.

The results of the ADDM network, which combines data collected in 2018 from all 11 sites in the United States, found that 1 in 44 surveyed 8-year-olds have ASD. This number represents a significant increase from previous estimates for 1 in 54 8-year-olds tested with ASD.

The Middle Tennessee study site reported an increase from 1 in 64 children with ASD to 1 in 44. Tennessee serves as a middle ground in these new data in 11 ADDM sites, with the percentage of 8-year-old children with ASD being 2.3%.

It is important to understand that the assessment of the prevalence of ASD among 8-year-olds is not representative of the entire United States, but rather an in-depth look at the 11 communities that make up the CDC’s ADDM network. And the increase cannot be due to a single factor. “

Alison Wehorn, ADDM Project Director

“These results are probably a combination of increased awareness and advanced ways of evaluating children,” Warren said. “There may be other complex factors that are related to real increase, but there is no single reason – our methodology does not tell us the reason. What it does is tell us how incredibly common ASD is in our communities. These findings support the idea, more than anything else, that we need to build care systems that can serve 1 in 44 children. “

Other new findings in the study include the results of observing 4-year-old children in Tennessee for the first time. The ADDM network found that children born in 2014 (4 years old at the time of the study) were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with ASD or a special educational classification of ASD up to 48 months of age than children born in 2014. in 2010 (8-year-old children at the time of study). This finding is particularly important because of the importance of early identification and access to services for children with autism.

“There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that early access to and support for ASD can dramatically improve important learning skills and quality of life,” Warren said. “Early intervention can help support huge advances in language and communication skills. In addition, early detection allows us to better understand, serve and support both children with ASD and their parents. ”

Another difference in the CDC’s findings is the special attention paid to the observation of children from racial and ethnic minority groups for ASD. Historically, the ADDM network has shown significant differences in the prevalence of ASD among black and Hispanic 8-year-olds, but these differences are no longer significant in this report. Among 4-year-olds, the ADDM network found that ethnic and racial minority groups were often identified with ASD at a higher rate than white children.

These findings may suggest improvements in ASD awareness, identification, and access to services in communities serving blacks, Hispanics, and other traditionally underserved groups.

“Historically, there have been huge differences in the identification and care of autism, and these differences are now less noticeable,” Wehorn said. “But we are not done working to make the identification and treatment of ASD for non-white children fairer. These results simply mean that we must continue to work to identify and support historically underrepresented children as early as possible.”

Warren and Wehorn’s findings in Central Tennessee and subsequent contributions to the CDC’s ADDM network were made possible by VKC’s strong partnerships with the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Health.

“We are in a happy position to be able to do this work on a population scale because of our partnerships,” Warren said. “In addition, senior leaders from the Department of Education, the Tennessee Early Intervention System and other government agencies are partnering with Vanderbilt not only to understand the spread, but also to use that data to support investment in people support programs. with lifelong ASD according to documented distribution. “

The Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Early Intervention System maintain several VKC and TRIAD capacity building partnerships through professional development, training, and technical assistance contracts. “It is very likely that some of the changes we have seen in identification and service in Central Tennessee are a direct result of this funding and broader partnerships,” Warren said.

Source:

Vanderbilt University Medical Center



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