SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – New government statistics released Friday on the prevalence of autism conflict with other reported numbers. 22News spoke with a pediatrician at Baystate Medical Center to find out what we should take away from this.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 45 American children have autism, but other federal calculations find autism is less common than that: about 1 in 68 children.
22News went to Baystate Medical Center to speak with Dr. John O’Reilly; he recalled less than a decade ago when an estimated 1 in 150 children had autism. But there’s been a shift in the way the disorder is classified; for example, people who were diagnosed with Asperger’s years ago now fall within the autism spectrum. Doctors are screening more, and asking parents important questions earlier, about language, social anxiety, and listening.
“Our job as pediatricians is to throw the net wide; to take the questionnaire and find more kids that may have an issue, get them to the autism specialist and get them the help they need,” said Dr. O’Reilly.
The point is, we know more children are being diagnosed, and we know early intervention is essential and effective. Dr. O’Reilly said getting babies and young children to the right services can really change the direction in which they grow and give families a better outcome.