Why are more Australian children being diagnosed with autism?

Australian researchers have found more kids are being diagnosed with autism, but the reason why is still being debated. Is the number of children who have the condition increasing, or are they just being diagnosed earlier in life?

About one in 100 Australians is diagnosed with autism, and there’s been huge spikes in the numbers of people with the condition in the past ten years. Between 2009 and 2012 there was a 79 per cent leap in the number of Australians estimated to have autism.

A recent study by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute followed the development of 10,000 children, over a period of several years. Some were studied from birth, others from preschool age. Later on in childhood their parents were asked if their child had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers found that more of the children who had been studied from birth had been diagnosed with ASD before the age of seven.

Lead researcher Professor Katrina Williams says that the prevalence of ASD for the younger age group is higher than in previous Australian studies, “however, it is still not clear whether the difference in prevalence represents a shift to a younger age of diagnosis or a continued increase in diagnosis”.

Meanwhile, an intriguing new study has revealed that children who ‘grow out’ of ADHD end up having a higher IQ, than those who continue to be afflicted with the behavioural disorder.

One in 20 children have ADHD, and while some will continue to have issues with things like inattention and overactivity, other will no longer have the condition when they reach adolescence. More than 100 children were studied by researchers at King’s College London, using a range of tests to measure things like their attention and reaction time.

What they found was that those who had ‘grown out’ of ADHD had higher IQs. Researchers said they’d already seen this during tests earlier in childhood, suggesting, “that IQ acts as a protective factor against ADHD continuing into adulthood”.

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