Autism Rates Appear To Have Stabilized

by Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times/TNS | January 3, 2018

Autism Speaks PSA

Three years of data from the National Health Interview Survey suggests that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among American children and teens has stabilized at around 2.41 percent, according to a new study. (Ad Council for Autism Speaks/TNS) 

Researchers have a new reason to believe that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in the U.S. has reached a plateau.

The evidence comes from the National Health Interview Survey, which polls American households about a variety of conditions. When a participating family includes children, one of those kids is selected at random to be included in the interview.

A new question was added to the survey in 2014: “Has a doctor or health professional ever told you that (the child) had autism, Asperger’s disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, or autism spectrum disorder?”

Between 2014 and 2016, this question was answered for 30,502 children ages 3 to 17. In 711 cases, the answer was “yes.”

Researchers from the University of Iowa weighted those responses to account for the fact that not all American households were equally likely to be selected for the survey — and that among those that were, not all were equally likely to provide an answer to that particular question.

Once all the statistical work was done, the research team found that 2.41 percent of U.S. kids and teens had a form of autism between 2014 and 2016. That prevalence rose slightly over the three-year period — from 2.24 percent in 2014 to 2.41 percent in 2015 and then 2.58 percent in 2016. But that wasn’t enough to be considered statistically significant. In other words, those changes were so small that they could have been due to chance.

Some groups were more likely to report a diagnosis than others. The prevalence for boys over the three-year period was 3.54 percent, compared with 1.22 percent for girls. The 1.78 percent prevalence among Latino children was significantly lower than for non-Latino blacks (2.36 percent) or for non-Latino whites (2.71 percent).

Geography was not a factor, however. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders was 2.21 percent in the South, 2.24 percent in the West, 2.47 percent in the Midwest and 3.05 percent in the Northeast. None of those differences was large enough to be considered statistically significant.

The overall prevalence figures were higher than numbers reported in other surveys. For instance, data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network put the prevalence at 1.46 percent in 2012. That was essentially unchanged from the 1.47 percent the ADDM survey reported in 2010 — marking the first time it had held steady since 2000.

The authors of the new report offered a few explanations for the difference. Households from across the country participated in the National Health Interview Survey, while the ADDM survey focused on about a dozen communities. In addition, the NHIS relied on reports from household members to identify children with autism; for the ADDM, doctors reviewed kids’ medical and educational records.

But the differences between the two surveys may not be as significant as the fact that both suggest the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders has stabilized.

The Iowa researchers said more work will be needed to determine whether changes in environmental risks, diagnostic criteria, public awareness or other factors are behind the apparent end to a decade-long increase.

The study was published in Tuesday’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

© 2018 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Sonoma County law enforcement and people with autism gather to teach each other

JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | September 21, 2017

Volunteering from the audience, Andrew Kirk of Sonoma sat on a chair on stage at a Sonoma County church for a demonstration of a hypothetical arrest.

Cotati Police Officer Tyler Wardle held him at gunpoint — using a fake rubber weapon in a day-glow orange — while Petaluma Police Officer Tyler Saldanha pulled his arms behind his back and applied handcuffs.

Read more… 

New faces of autism in ‘Sesame Street,’ ‘Power Rangers’ movie could help dispel stereotypes

Supreme Court likely to boost public schools’ responsibilities to children with disabilities

By David G. Savage

Supreme Court justices appeared ready Wednesday to clarify and strengthen the rights of the nation’s 6.7 million children with disabilities, perhaps by requiring public schools to offer a special education program that will ensure they can make significant progress.

The case of a Colorado boy with autism, Endrew F. vs. Douglas County School District, could have a far-reaching impact on millions of children and their parents as well as the budgets of school districts nationwide.
At issue is a long-standing federal law that says children with disabilities have a right to a “free appropriate public education.” Schools, courts and parents have been divided over what this promise means in practice.

Does it mean, for example, that a school must merely offer a minimal special program that may offer “some educational benefit” to the child, as a federal appeals court in Denver ruled? Or instead, do these children have a right to “make significant educational progress,” as lawyers for the outgoing Obama administration contend?

During Wednesday’s argument, the justices struggled with the lawyers and among themselves to find the right legal standard. At one point, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. drew knowing smiles from his colleagues when he complained of the “blizzard of words” being tossed around, most of which had no clear meaning.

However, most of the justices appeared to favor setting a slightly higher standard, one that should lead the child to make measured progress on academics or behavior. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said it would not be sufficient for schools to provide an expert for five minutes a day and claim they were providing the child “some benefit.”

But the chief justice and others said they were wary of setting an unrealistically strict standard that would require students to meet certain goals. They also voiced worries about costs and an explosion of lawsuits.

Parents who are dissatisfied with special educational programs may remove their children from public schools, enroll them in private schools and then sue to have the costs paid by the school districts. But to win a reimbursement, the parents must show that the public schools failed to provide the “appropriate” education promised by the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

A coalition of big-city school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, warned the high court of the growing cost of private programs, which on average are more than four times as expensive as a public program. Los Angeles school officials said they spend $93 million a year on these private placements.

In the case before the court, the parents of Endrew F., an autistic child from Douglas County, Colo., enrolled him in public school through fourth grade. They worked with teachers to devise a special education program for him, but by fourth grade, his behavior was getting worse. He had repeated outbursts in class, banged his head on the floor and twice ran away from the school.

His parents moved him to a private school where he was “thriving,” according to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nonetheless, the judges ruled the public school system need not reimburse the parents because it had provided their child with a minimally “adequate” educational program. “It is not the [school] district’s burden to pay for his placement [in the private school] when Drew was making some progress under its tutelage. That is all that is required,” wrote Judge Timothy Tymkovich, one of the 21 judges named as possible Supreme Court nominees by President-elect Donald Trump.

Stanford law professor Jeffrey Fisher, representing the parents, said the Supreme Court should reject the minimally adequate standard set by the 10th Circuit and instead say that children with disabilities have a right to make significant progress at school.

Lawyers from the U.S. solicitor general’s office joined in support of the parents. Irv Gornstein, a counselor in the office, said the law requires schools to provide a learning program “aimed at significant progress in light of the child’s circumstances.”

While this is not a guarantee of progress, they said, it is an approach that will require schools to aim high.

david.savage@latimes.com
Twitter: DavidGSavage

A special child may require a special parent – Napa Valley Register

She began the Napa Families of ASD page about two years ago after her son Charlie was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Charlie, age 5, is a smart, smiling child who finds it easier to read a book than to interact with other children.

Chia and her husband, Jim Leiken, began to learn about special education and other resources through the local group ParentsCAN. She talked with another parent facing the same situation who had done more research than her and Charlie’s diagnosis began to seem less daunting.

“Then it became clear to me parents really had a lot of knowledge and passion and we all felt really isolated and alone,” Chia said.

Napa Families of ASD is a closed Facebook site where members can make connections. One recent post from a parent concerned haircuts.

Chia can relate, given Charlie can’t deal with going to a barber and having a flurry of scissor strokes sending shorn locks raining on his shoulders. She gives Charlie haircuts herself using electric scissors and a lot of patience. Another local parent cuts only a few locks of hair off her child each day.

Another post informs families of a “Sensitive Santa” event. This Santa avoids the loud “ho-ho-hos” and animated moves that might disconcert special needs children.

Another is from a mother with a child recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

“She was kind of shell-shocked and looking for guidance – ‘What should I think about this, what should I do?’ ” Chia said.

Children with autism spectrum disorder face a range of challenges, depending where they are on the spectrum. That leaves no one-size-fits-all handbook for parents.

“There’s a saying, ‘If you’ve met one kid on the spectrum, you’ve met one kid on the spectrum,’ ” Chia said.

American Canyon resident Teresa Silvagni is among those who use the Napa Families with ASD website and leaves posts there. She has a 6-year-old with autism spectrum disorder.

“We didn’t know who to contact, who to talk to,” she said. “It was a really nice resource to have.”

Chia has gone beyond starting the web page. She approached the Napa County Library about starting a “sensory friendly story time” for special-needs children.

Readers at the regular story times can grow too animated for Charlie and other special-needs children. The large library room allows them to wander off. The sensory friendly story time held the fourth Saturday of every month takes another approach.

“It’s a calmer story time,” Chia said.

Library Head of Children Services Ann Davis said Chia and another mother were proactive about the library starting the sensory-friendly story times.

“Candice is a mover and shaker and she’s very respectful,” Davis said. “She planted the seed and let us do it within our own time frame. Now it’s up-and-running and it will be a year in January.”

Target Will Offer Quiet Shopping Hours for Kids With Autism

In case you needed another reason to love Target: Stores are offering quiet shopping hours for kids on the autism spectrum and their parents, according to the Mighty.

On December 10, before the store even opens, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., parents can shop free of distractions. They’re going to dim the lights, turn off the music, and reduce the number of employees on the floor in order to create a sensory-free environment. These types of sensory stimulants might seem like no big deal, but for people on the autism spectrum they can be frustrating and even scary. Read more…

Ford steps up effort to hire people with autism

Ford Motor Co. plans next year to hire an additional 12 to 24 adults with autism, expanding a program with the Autism Alliance of Michigan that has more than 30 other local companies signed on. Read more…

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