National Study will Monitor Children With Autism, Focusing on a Better Treatment Plan

8 year olds with autism

A federally funded project will seek researchers from several universities to study prevalence of autism among 4 and 8 year olds. The study hopes to procure accurate data on how widespread autism is in the U.S.

Over the next four years, children residing in more than 10 sites within the United States will be studied this announcement was made by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Wednesday. It is projected that over $20 million will be allocated for this research. Special attention will be paid to autism prevalence in different parts of the country.

One of the participating institutions will be the University of Minnesota, who will be building on research from 2013. The previous study published by Minnesota observed autism at rates of 1 in 36 white children, and 1 in 32 for Somali children in Minneapolis. These rates were notably higher than the national average, and those of other demographic populations in the Minneapolis area. The university’s new study will examine children with both ASD and intellectual disabilities, since those two categories are distinct.

Children will be monitored under the new diagnostic criteria from the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Under the new guidelines, children who previously fell under the autism diagnosis are now classified as having Social Communication Disorder (SCD).

Since developmental disorders are commonly misunderstood, correct autism diagnosis is a focus of this study. Some children are misdiagnosed as autistic, while others actually are affected by autism spectrum disorder are wrongly given the diagnosis of SCD. It is determined that children with SCD do not meet the criteria for ASD.

Under federal guidelines, SCD is loosely defined and treatment plans for it lack a formal structure. After this diagnostic change was made, parents began complaining that their children were losing the behavioral therapy and special education services granted to them under an ASD diagnosis once they were reclassified as having SCD.

Rutgers, another university participating in the study, belongs to the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. This organization works to monitor the number of children living with autism in the U.S. The CDCs new study will continue this work already underway by Rutgers.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. hopes that the study will lead people to address autism as a public health concern. In the past, Pallone has spoken out against budget cuts to autism and special needs research. It is estimated in the state of New Jersey, up to 1 in 45 children have autism.

Receiving the correct diagnosis for a development disorder is crucial to receiving effective treatment. At the conclusion of the CDC’s study, the researchers hope that federal agencies will have a better set of plans in place to address developmental disorders and intellectual disabilities.

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