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>We’re Not on the Fringes Anymore

May 30, 2011

>Yesterday, John Knight,  who blogs at my church’s disabilities blog, The Works of God, reported on a study in the June 2011 edition of Pediatrics, summarized on WebMD. (The abstract of the article is here.) New figures from the CDC show that one in six children in the U.S. are living with a developmental disability, a rise of 17% in the past decade.

This summary highlighted the significant rise in autistic spectrum disorder or ASD diagnoses up from 0.2% to 0.7%, an increase of 300% between 1997 and 2008. The more startling truth is that a May, 2011 report on a recent prevalence study of autism conducted in South Korea indicated that one child in 38, “had some form of autism, including the more mild social disorder known as Asperger’s Syndrome.” By comparison, it stated the current reported rate of autism in children in the U.S. is one in 110: 1 in 80 boys and 1 in 240 girls.

This study does not suggest that Korean kids are as higher risk of autism. Rather this study headed by researchers at Yale, studied a broad demographic of 55,000 Korean school children ages 7-12, specifically including children not enrolled in special education programs, and concluded that actual cases of ASD are significantly under diagnosed all over the world.

 The Pediatrics report also noted that 9.5% of boys and 3.7% of girls in the U.S. now have an ADHD diagnosis. Both reports emphasize that the actual incidence of children with some developmental disabilities may not be increasing, but that with growing awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and intervention, diagnoses may be increasing, especially among children on the milder ends of the spectra.

However, in some cases, the increases may actually reflect higher incidence as society-wide factors push more children into the high-risk category. One of these is the trend of women in the U.S. waiting until later in life to have children, which is linked to an increase in infertility treatments and pre-term birth. For example, premature birth is the #1 cause of cerebral palsy (among the developmental disabilities reported in the Pediatrics study) in the U.S.

Adoption doesn’t “push” children into the high risk category for developmental disabilities. But because children placed for adoption in the U.S. and Internationally generally come from hard-start backgrounds, the incidence of developmental disability in the adoption community, it seems to me, is likely higher than the one in six children in the general population. So those of us raising older adopted kids with developmental disabilities may be far from the fringes. We may represent the leading edge of what is becoming as ordinary –where I live in the Midwest 🙂  –as having a child on the blond hair spectrum.

That brings me back to our collective recent musings on how to help prospective adoptive parents better prepare for the eventuality that their decision to adopt may lead them into the world of parenting kids with developmental disabilities, whether or not that is their intent.

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