Determining the cause requires investigating multiple factors—from cold, hard statistics to social, biological, and environmental influences.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common disorder, affecting 1 in 44 U.S. children per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common or not, the road to recognition has been grueling. The term autism was first used by psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1911 to describe schizophrenic patients who were considered self-absorbed and withdrawn. Today, it is an umbrella term for neurodevelopmental disorders that encompass a broad collection of characteristics and physical issues.
This is a true testament to the dramatic evolution of ASD over the last century.
Lost in this ambiguous historical translation is the human element, that each person with autism displays completely unique characteristics—different social challenges, different physical manifestations, even different strengths. It’s part of the undeniable nature of ASD, as well as what makes the disorder particularly difficult to diagnose.
With the diagnosis spike over the last decade—jumping from 1 in 155 cases in 2007 to 1 in 59 as of 2018—there is a question on everyone’s mind; is the spike due to an actual increase, or more awareness and testing, or is it attributed to inaccurate diagnoses?
Stacker has created a list of 10 possible explanations for the recent spike in ASD diagnoses based on scientific and governmental reports, including research from Scientific American and the National Institutes of Health.