SAMPLE+RESEARCH+PAPER - Autism an Enigma Abstract Prior to...

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Autism: an Enigma Abstract Prior to the 1980s, autism was largely perceived as a rare disorder, affecting less than 0.05% of the population. However, this statistic has radically changed. Today, the United States is ostensibly afflicted with an autism epidemic. The latest report of incidence indicates an appalling 18 fold increase. However, does this rising trend in prevalence truly reflect an increase in incidence? Many analysts argue in opposition to the reported rise, claiming that the rise reflects changes and improvements in case ascertainment. This paper assesses the validity of arguments in favor of and opposed to the notion of an autism epidemic. After analyzing changes in diagnostic criteria, nomenclature, age at diagnosis, methodology, socio-cultural influences, as well as diagnostic substitution, the paper concludes that autism has not truly reached epidemic proportions. Introduction In the last two decades, the number of children diagnosed with autism has surged in the United States. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 110 children in the United States have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This accounts for an astounding 18 fold increase compared to the diagnosis of 1 in 2000 in the early 1980s. However, is this truly indicative of an autism epidemic? ASDs comprise a group of psychological and social disorders including Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS). These subtypes are differentiated by age of onset, severity of symptoms, and the extent of language delay and intellectual disability. Characteristic symptoms of autism include impaired social interaction, delays in language, and repetitive behaviors. ASDs can usually be diagnosed before age three and last throughout an individual’s life. Some children display symptoms of autism within the first few months of birth. However, the majority of children exhibit symptoms up until 24 months or later. A few even develop normally for up to two or three years and then suddenly stop developing mentally (CDC 1). Thus, diagnosing ASDs is extremely difficult and haphazard since there is no single foolproof medical test that can detect autism. While both government-
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sponsored and private industries are diligently working towards identifying the etiology of autism, the origins of autism continue to be shrouded in mystery. Over the years, analysts have developed rather broad diagnostic methods which fallaciously lead to the assumption that autism has reached epidemic proportions. In the research article, “Unpacking the Complex Nature of the Autism Epidemic,” Dr. Helen Leonard and colleagues suggest that autism cannot be qualified as an epidemic. Throughout the article, she discusses the impact of changes in diagnostic criteria, reduction in age at diagnosis, improved case ascertainment, socio-cultural influences, and diagnostic substitution on ASD prevalence. Leonard emphasizes that the determination of the
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SAMPLE+RESEARCH+PAPER - Autism an Enigma Abstract Prior to...

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