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M.I.N.D. Institute study confirms autism increase

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- The unprecedented increase in autism in California is real and cannot be explained away by artificial factors, such as misclassification and criteria changes, according to the results of a large statewide epidemiological study.

"Speculation about the increase in autism in California has led some to try to explain it away as a statistical issue or with other factors that artificially inflated the numbers," said UC Davis pediatric epidemiologist Robert S. Byrd, who is the principal investigator on the study. "Instead, we found that autism is on the rise in the state and we still do not know why. The results of this study are, without a doubt, sobering."

Key findings of the study are that:

  • The observed increase in autism cases cannot be explained by a loosening in the criteria used to make the diagnosis.
  • Some children reported with mental retardation and not autism did meet criteria for autism, but this misclassification does not appear to have changed over time.
  • Because more than 90 percent of the children in the survey are native born, major migration of children into California does not contribute to the increase.
  • A diagnosis of mental retardation associated with autism had declined significantly between the two age groups.
  • The percentage of parent-reported regression (loss of developmental milestones) does not differ between two age groups.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, including constipation and vomiting, in the first 15 months are more commonly reported by parents in the younger group.

"While this study does not identify the cause of autism, it does verify that autism has not been over-reported in the California Regional Center System and that some children diagnosed with mental retardation are, in fact, autistic," Byrd said.

Byrd and his research team earlier this year enrolled 684 California children who received services from one o
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Contact: Martha Alcott
martha.alcott@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9027
University of California, Davis - Health System
17-Oct-2002


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