Why has the autism rates quadrupled during the past decade in Sacramento? Check out the Sept. 3, 2011 Sacramento Bee article by Philip Reese, "Autism rates quadruple in local schools over last decade - Sacramento Bee." Did you every wonder why 10 years ago fewer than 500 students in Sacramento County public schools were enrolled in special education classes because they were diagnosed as having autism. A decade later, the number now has increased to 2,275 -- about one of every 105 pupils, according to state data released this week.
Additionally, in another research project, a survey from Philadelphia sponsored by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, researchers examined the physical and emotional health of children ages 0-17 years of age with findings that debunked the widespread notion that there's an 80 percent divorce rate when there's a child with autism in the family.
Nationwide increases in autism diagnoses have been attributed to increased awareness and changing definitions of the disorder. Whether autism is actually more prevalent -- as opposed to just more frequently diagnosed -- is a matter of controversy. Autism is most prevalent in white males. Among large districts in Sacramento County, the highest rates of special education children with autism are in Elk Grove Unified -- one autistic child per 85 students -- and in Folsom-Cordova Unified -- one autistic child per 74 students.
Just because more older women in Sacramento are having children after the age of 35 or 40, is there a connection to the rising, even quadrupling number of autistic children enrolled in special education classes locally? See the articles, Autism risk rises 50% for older mothers, say scientists | Mail Online, Moms Over 40 | Study links mother's age to child's risk of autism ... , and Autism, Older Parents Link Detailed - CBS News.
Mothers over age are nearly twice as likely to have a child with autism, according to new studies. What does this signify for the increase of students with autism in Sacramento's local schools, since the rate has dramatically increased. But moms have been having children at older ages since the 1970s.
Children are singled out
Children with autism-spectrum disorders may be singled out by other children and teachers due to their repetitive behavior. Autism is a matter of degree on a spectrum and may be slight or severe in a child's ability to socialize and communicate.
The big question is whether the autism in special education classes were not reported in past decades or whether it has increased and is just being reported. Special education classes in Sacramento County report the highest number of autistic children, usually white males, but not always, is found in the Elk Grove school district with 729 autistic students reported to be in special education classes, according to the Sacramento Bee article.
Next, is Sacramento City school district with 504 autistic students enrolled in special education. Third in place is Folsom Cordova school district with 264 autistic children enrolled in special education classes. Fourth is San Juan school district with 327 students enrolled in special education classes.
Twin Rivers school district has 183 autistic students enrolled in special education classes, and Natomas school district has 129 students in special education classes who are reported to be austistic. Sacramentans need to ask why has there been an increase in autism here during the past decade--or as reported being placed in special education classes with the 'diagoses' of autism? The big question is whether autism is increasing.
Was autism unreported as much in past decades, or did autistic students not get placed in special education programs in the past? The other possibility is that there is some cause of the increasing numbers of students called autistic.
Is it about the increase in maternal age or something else when it comes to spectrum disorders? And if there's a genetic component, white males do seem to be diagnosed more with autism than females. There are autistic females. See, Toys Help Autistic Girl Learn Skills - Video - KCRA Sacramento. Also see the Web MD article, The Challenges of Raising a Child With Autism.
Eighty percent autism divorce rate debunked in first-of-its kind scientific study
Kennedy Krieger researchers in Philadelphia in recent research found that autism does not affect family structure as the 80 percent autism-divorce rate has been debunked in first-of-its kind scientific study. Having a child with autism can put stress on the parents' marriage, and a frequently cited statistic leads to a common perception that the divorce rate among these families is as high as 80 percent. But a study to be released at a news conference today by researchers from Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore found that a child's autism has no effect on the family structure.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is the nation's fastest growing developmental disorder, with current incidence rates estimated at 1 in 110 children. More children will be diagnosed with autism than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined, yet profound gaps remain in our understanding of both the causes and cures of the disorder. Continued research and education about developmental disruptions in individuals with ASD is crucial, as early detection and intervention can lead to improved outcomes in individuals with ASD.
New research debunks rumors regarding high divorce rates among parents of children with autism
Brian Freedman, PhD, lead author of the study and clinical director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute, said the findings seem to debunk a lot of the general understanding about high divorce rates among parents of children with autism. Dr. Freedman and his research team found that 64 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) belong to a family with two married biological or adoptive parents, compared with 65 percent of children who do not have an ASD.
Dr. Freedman will present results of the study in Philadelphia at the International Meeting for Autism Research, an annual scientific meeting convened to exchange new scientific progress among autism researchers from around the world.
Receiving the news of a child's autism diagnosis can be devastating, and Dr. Freedman said the pain is compounded as parents ponder what will happen to them as a couple. "In the work I've done with children with autism, I've come across many couples who quote this 80 percent divorce rate to me. They don't know what the future holds for their child, and feel a sense of hopelessness about the future of their marriage as well – almost like getting a diagnosis of autism and a diagnosis of divorce at the same time," he explained in the May 19, 2010 news release, "80 percent autism-divorce rate debunked in first-of-its kind scientific study."
With very little empirical and no epidemiological research addressing the issue of separation and divorce among parents of children with autism, researchers sought to more scientifically examine the incidence. Using data from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health*, they examined a nationally representative sample of 77,911 children, ages 3 to 17.
The stress of parenting a child with varying degrees of autism on the spectrum
Previous research speaks to the fact that parenting a child with autism is stressful, and it puts pressure on the marriage. Dr. Freedman noted that past studies have found couples with a child with autism experience more stress in their marriage than couples with typically developing children or couples with children with other types of developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome. Mothers of children with autism report more depression than those with typically developing children, while fathers report they deal with the stress by distancing themselves and becoming less involved with the family.
"While there are indeed stressors in parenting a child with autism, it doesn't necessarily result in the family breaking up more often than would occur in another family," said Dr. Freedman in the news release, 80 percent autism-divorce rate debunked in first-of-its kind scientific study. "And as someone who works with a team of health care professionals to treat and provide support for families of children with autism, it's important for us to make sure our patients' parents know that, and for our fellow clinicians to provide reliable, evidence-based information about the divorce rate among this population as well."
This analysis of the National Survey of Children's Health data showed there are certain factors in a family that can contribute to divorce, such as having a child with particularly challenging behaviors, with or without autism. For some families, the challenges of parenting a child with special needs may indeed result in straining the marriage to the breaking point. Further research is needed to understand the relationships among in-tact families with children with autism to identify how they work through the challenges.
"I would hope this research drives home the importance of providing support to these families, and letting them know that their relationships can survive these stressors," he said. "We should continue to provide training for parents so that they can work through the stressors in their relationship to keep their family together and have a successful marriage."
Dr. Freedman presented the team's research regarding the recent survey on May 21, 2010 during the Epidemiology 2 Session in the Philadelphia Marriott hotel. In addition to Freedman, the research team includes Luther Kalb, of Kennedy Krieger Institute, Ben Zablotsky and Dr. Elizabeth Stuart, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The survey, sponsored by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, examines the physical and emotional health of children ages 0-17 years of age.
About the Kennedy Krieger Institute
Internationally recognized for improving the lives of children and adolescents with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD serves more than 13,000 individuals each year through inpatient and outpatient clinics, home and community services and school-based programs. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children with developmental concerns mild to severe, and is home to a team of investigators who are contributing to the understanding of how disorders develop while pioneering new interventions and earlier diagnosis. For more information on Kennedy Krieger Institute, visit its website.