- A new state report released today raises
troubling questions about why California's developmental services system
is experiencing a large unexpected increase in the numbers of children
with autism, announced by State Senate President pro Tem John Burton and
Senator Wesley Chesbro, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Developmental
Disabilities and Mental Health.
- "In the past 10 years, California
has had a 273% increase in the number of children with autism who enter
the developmental services system - 1,685 new cases last year alone,"
Burton said. "What is generally considered a rare condition is increasing
faster here than other developmental disabilities. We need to find out
- "The number of children with autism
greatly exceeds the numbers you'd expect from traditional incident rates,"
Chesbro said. "The findings and conclusions of this report show we
need to take action now to figure out where this increase is coming from,
what the causes of autism are and what we as a state can do."
- The Department of Developmental Services
report, "Changes in the Population of Persons with Autism and Pervasive
Developmental Disorders in California's Developmental Services System:
1987-1998" was released to the Legislature this morning. While it
confirms the increased incidence, the report does not examine factors leading
to the increase. The report was required as a result of legislation developed
after parents, human services professionals and educators expressed concern
that they were seeing a dramatic increase in children with autism.
- In addition to special legislative hearings
in the issue, Burton and Chesbro called for funding an independent epidemiological
study to help identify the causes of autism and the factors leading to
California's increase in autism cases. The Senators suggested that the
U.C. Davis Medical Investigation of Neurological Disorders Institute,
(M.I.N.D.) would be the appropriate organization to do the research.
- Autism exacts a tremendous cost on children,
on families and the developmental disabilities system," Burton said.
"The system is getting seven new kids with autism seven days a week.
Is this because families are coming to California for services? A change
in diagnostic practices? Something environmental? We need to get to the
bottom of this and we need to do it right," Chesbro added.
- For copies of the report contact Paul
Verke a the California Department of Developmental Services 916 654-1820.
The report is also on the Department's website: http://www.dds.ca.gov
, or will be there by the end of the day. The contact for the M.I.N.D.
Institute is Carole Gan 916 734-9047
- EXCERPTS OF THE REPORT by Michael McIntire
- If there was ever any doubt about the
rise in Autism Incidence, this will forever dispel it. Following is an
excerpt from a CA Department of Developmental Services report released
today by state Senator John Burton.
- While the 273% increase is quite notable
in the face of 50% increases for other disabilities, it is notable that
data for the 13,000+ children in the the early start program for 0 to 3
year olds was NOT included. The numbers will also show that the rate of
increase is accelerating at 3% per year.
- If you really want to be scared: for
the calendar year 1998, there were 1,685 NEW diagnosis, or 16% of the total
population - in ONE YEAR.
- Michael McIntire
- Table 1 shows the number and percent
change in the number of persons with autism and other PDDs counted from
all four levels of CDER classification in the 11 years between 1987 and
1998. The population of persons with autism increased from 4.85 to 9.37
percent of the total state wide client population. At the end of 1998
there were 12,780 persons, of all ages, with autism listed on the CDER.
Autism as a percent of the total client population nearly doubled.
Table 1 - Number of Persons with Autism in 1987 and 1998
Total Client Population 80,483 136,383
Persons with Autism (Levels 1,2&4) 3,902 12,780
Percent of Total Client Population 4.85% 9.37%
- Table 2 presents the total number and
percent change between 1987 and 1998 for persons with autism, cerebral
palsy, epilepsy and mental retardation. To maintain equivalency in the
way each diagnostic condition is counted, only CDER classification Levels
1 and 2 for persons with autism are used in this table. Because some individuals
have two or more of the four eligible conditions at the same time, all
possible combinations of eligible conditions were used and a separate count
was obtained for each condition or combination of conditions. For example,
if an individual has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and mental retardation, that
person would be counted three separate times, once for each separate condition
to get the total for each separate condition.
- Table 2 shows that the percent occurrence
of persons with autism increased dramatically in comparison to the other
conditions for the 11 years between 1987 and 1998. The rate of the increase
is more than four times as great as the other diagnostic categories.
Table 2 -
Percent Increase in Diagnostic Populations from 1987 to 1998
1987 1998 Percent Change
Autism 3,864 11,995 210.43%
Cerebral Palsy 19,972 28,529 42.84%
Epilepsy 22,683 29,645 30.69%
Mental Retardation 72,987 108,563 48.74%
Whole Population 80,483 136,383 69.46%
- As one example of the increase in the
number of persons with autism, between 12/31/97 and 12/31/98, there was
a net increase of 1,685 persons with autism into the system. The population
of persons with autism increased 16.3 percent in one year, not including
persons with other PDD diagnoses. By the end of 1998, there were 785 persons
in the system with a diagnosis of one of the (Level 4) PDD diagnoses, i.e.,
Asperger's, PDD, NOS or Retts disorder.
- Table 3 shows the percent change in occurrence
of the other DDs in comparison to autism. There was a 273 percent increase
in the number of persons with autism between 1987 and 1998 and nearly a
2000 percent increase in the PDD categories. Table 3 also shows that as
of December 31, 1998, there were 1,635 individuals coded on the CDER as
"autism suspected, not diagnosed."
Table 3 - Autism and the Other PDDs Compared
1987 1998 Percent Change
Autism 2,778 10,360 272.93%
(CDER Levels 1 & 2)
Other PDD Types 38 785 1,965.79%
(CDER Level 4)
Autism Suspected, 1,086 1,635 50.55%
Not Diagnosed (CDER level 9)