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Monday, April 12, 2010
As many people are aware, there has been a major increase in the incidence of Autism over the last twenty years. Many people have different opinions as to why this is (e.g., environment, vaccines, mother's age, better diagnostic practice, more awareness, etc.); however, there are still many children who have autistic traits that are never diagnosed clinically. Therefore, these children do not receive the support they need through educational or medical services. A recent study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that a large number of undiagnosed children displayed autistic traits (e.g., repetitive behaviors, impairments in social interaction, and difficulties with communication). These traits were at levels comparable to the traits displayed by children who held a clinical diagnosis (all diagnosed between 1 and 12 years old). However, the undiagnosed children were not eligible for extra support at school or by specialized medical services. The lead researcher of the study, Ginny Russell, indicated that a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) currently "holds the key to unlocking intervention from school systems and health programs. Perhaps these resources should be extended and available for children who show autistic impairments but remain undiagnosed." He also pointed out that the study shows that there is a gender bias in diagnosing children with ASD -- boys are more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls, even when they display similar symptoms.