February 9, 2007

NJ autism is 1 in 94

N.J. shows high rate of autism in study
Findings stir debate among the experts
Friday, February 09, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff

One of every 94 children in New Jersey has autism, the worst rate among the states tested in the most comprehensive study of the disease. The results already have sparked a debate over whether the findings are due to environmental factors or better detection methods. The study, released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at the prevalence of the disorder in 14 states by analyzing health and education records of children but did not search for causes.

In New Jersey, the study included nearly 30,000 children in Essex, Union, Hudson and Ocean counties and found the rate to be 10.6 cases of autism per 1,000 children (or 1 in 94), compared to an average of 6.6 per 1,000 (1 in 152) children overall.

The statistics are even worse for boys where New Jersey's rate is 16.8 per 1,000 (1 in 60) compared to girls (4 in 1,000), according to the study.

"Autism is more common than we believed and is a public health concern," said Catherine Rice, a behavioral scientist who led the study.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological condition characterized by impairments in social, communicative and behavioral development. The severity of autism varies over a spectrum and is more than three times as common in boys. Whites are diagnosed at higher rates than African-Americans or Hispanics.

Officials suggested one reason for New Jersey's higher rates is an aggressive system of assessment and treatment for children with autism. There is also a higher concentration of autism experts, such as pediatric neurologists and developmental pediatricians, than in places like West Virginia, where rates were low. Other states studied included Arizona, Maryland and Wisconsin.

Another reason may be that the definition of autism has expanded within the last decade to include milder versions of the disorder, said Melissa Nishawala, a child psychiatrist who heads the Autism Spectrum Disorders Service at the New York University Child Study Center.

Walter Zahorodny, who heads the New Jersey Autism Study, attributed the state's autism rates to early intervention and school services for autistic children, and heightened awareness among parents. Children with perceived problems are evaluated by study teams assigned to schools. Children under 3 are evaluated by early intervention teams and given therapy under a program of the state Health and Senior Services Department.

The number of toddlers in the early intervention program has been rising steadily, said State Health Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs. The budget for the program increased from $22 million in 2000 to $79 million this year, $11 million short of the amount needed for the entire fiscal year, he said.


Maddy said...

I'm so glad to hear the the diagnoses / evaluation is directly linked with the provision of services - that is so obviously essential but sadly not that common.
Best wishes

kristina said...

Hi Ginger---I wrote about this article in Autism is an epidemic, New Jersey is toxic, and other urban myths. Plenty of demand here for services, for sure.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there's any way to find out what the vaccination rates are in the various states and correlate that to the rates of autism. Maybe Alabama etc. has a low rate of vaccination, and NJ's is high. Just thinkin.

Anonymous said...

How about finding out if paternal age of babies has been especially high in NJ since 1980. Children with autism, in families with no history of autism, might really have more dads who fathered babies at 35 and older. Why doesn't someone take a careful scientifically designed and executed survey and find out?

Usually in the studies the average age of the fathers of the autistic children was 3-5 years older than the average age of fathers in the non-affected population.

Anonymous said...

It is ridiculous to assume the age of the father has anything to do with the incidence of autism. I was 20 and my husband was 22 when our first child was born normal but regressed after the MMR vaccine at 16 months. My second was born a year later and started regressing at 20 mths after the same vaccine. I don't think that's coincidental... There is absolutely no family hx of autism from either side of the family.

John J III said...

I am a parent of a 14 yr old auttistic boy...when my 3 yr old needed his mmr i was able to purchase each vaccine searately and my pediatrician reluctanly obliged me..now my 18 month old daughter needs her vaccines and I can only locate them through merck but they will only sell me pcks of 10..I am looking for 9 other families that may be interested...please email me to risleynj@aol.com if you would be interested the vaccines last up tp one year