As of April 2018, the official incidence rate for autism in the United States is 1 in 59.  This represents another increase in statistics, which have gone from 1 in 88, to 1 in 68, to now 1 in 59 only in the last few years.  However, this number is a state average with many states seeing much higher numbers.  For instance, New Jersey, the densest state in our nation, is reporting 1 in 34 children on the spectrum.

Multiple excellent therapies are now available for autism.  Schools have geared up with increased behaviorists and occupational therapists.  Facebook groups supporting mothers of children with autism are now prevalent and quite helpful.

In the process of this the stigma for autism has almost disappeared.  Parents with struggling children are searching for reasons and often finding relief in the diagnosis of autism.  Note, there has been a 90% drop in the incidence of mental retardation in the State of New York.  Where did all those slow children go?  Are they working in the White House?  LOL

No, those children are now being relabeled as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) because doctors, service providers and parents know they can get many more services and less of a stigma with the ASD diagnosis.

One thing a psychologist occasionally does is testing for Gifted and Talented.  Parents are looking for a very high IQ so that the child can be admitted into an advanced program.  That means if the final results come out with the child being only above average … the parent leaves the office quite disappointed.

Sometimes, the parent with the behaviorally-disturbed child is so much looking for a cogent explanation and that relief that they secretly hope to leave the office with a full autism diagnosis.

I recently had a principal call me to refer a child who had only sensory issues.  This means he was overwhelmed by noise and was particularly fussy with foods.  Yet he was a popular child with many ongoing friendships.  The principal stated that he was quite sure the child was on the spectrum.

Remember, social skills deficits must be observed for a child to be accurately placed on the spectrum.  These children have great difficulty reading subtle social signals of others, seem to struggle with empathy and do not perceive the necessity of turn-taking.  Sometimes with autistic children we see preoccupations (that are different than OCD) and great difficulty with change or transition.  Speech delays are common.

So now the modern evaluator often experiences some subtle pressure to classify the child as autistic.  Many times I have found the potential patient to be merely a behavior problem or simply quite anxious.  Little does the parent realize that these final diagnoses are much less of a life sentence and may easily respond to therapies.

I am happy to diagnose a child with autism because I know I am sending the child and the parent on a journey that will ultimately result in improvement and better functioning.  With those who do not meet criterion, I am realistic and straightforward with parents and help them come to grips with their role in their child’s struggles.  Either way, a proper diagnosis sets a proper course for the future.

Doctor Gary Eisenberg

No Comments

Post A Comment