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Some alarming information was published recently.
Developmental Disabilities are on the rise among American children. Autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are the two developmental disabilities leading the increase. Autism rates have increased by an alarming 74% since 1997-1999 and ADHD has increased by 33% since the same time period.
A study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, whose results were published in the journal Pediatrics, shows that over the past decade developmental disabilities have been increasing. During the period 1997-1999 about 8 million American children had developmental disabilities. In 2006-2008 that number increased by 17% to 10 million American children being diagnosed with developmental disabilities. The study concludes that today approximately 1 in every 6 American children has a developmental delay.
What is causing this alarming rise in numbers? The researchers attribute the increased diagnosis to a few possibilities:
- Improved awareness and diagnostic screening tools.
- An increase in preterm births could be contributing to the rise in developmental disabilities.
- Lastly, American couples are consistently choosing to have children at older ages and this could be a contributing factor in the rise in developmental delays.
The researchers stated that more research is going to be needed to determine what other environmental factors may be contributing to the overall rise in autism and developmental disability rates.
Based on the information obtained from the study, the researchers have identified some prevalent risk factors that place children at an increased risk of being diagnosed with a developmental disability.
- Boys are at an increased risk for being diagnosed with a developmental delay or disability than are girls. This is true overall for all developmental delays including autism.
- Families who have low incomes and live in poverty stricken areas of the United States are more at risk for having a child diagnosed with a developmental delay.
- Lastly, families who have public insurance are at an increased risk for having a child diagnosed with a developmental delay.
What does all of this mean? For starters, the increase is going to lead to a major increase in demand for services from specialized services in the medical and educational fields. More doctors who specialize in diagnosis and treatment of developmental delays will be necessary. Teachers trained to teach children with special needs at all ages are going to be a crucial part of treatment. Early detection and early intervention services are more important now than ever before.
As a parent it is important that you be an advocate for your child. This means educating yourself on developmental milestones that your child should be reaching at specific ages. You can read about some early autism signs here. Remember that early intervention does not just improve outcomes for children with autism. All children with developmental delays have substantial lifelong benefits by receiving intervention at the earliest age possible.