Researchers are questioning the federal government's estimates regarding the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in U.S. children, contending that the method used to assess the condition may have led to a significant number of false positives or cases where a diagnosis was missed.
Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last March estimated that one out of every 68 children in the U.S. were living with autism, which constituted a nearly 30% increase compared with 2012 figures.
The estimates were based on the collection of medical records of 8-year-olds in 11 U.S. states in 2010. A review of those records plus an examination of education records provides a determination of whether a child may be autistic. But in an editorial published this month in the journal Autism, researchers contend this method of identifying the disorder relies solely on the validity of the observations made by clinicians and educators to gauge the indicators of the condition, and is not based on the government health officials' own health assessment of the children studied.