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« Extreme male brain theory of autism: extremely smart or extremely sexist? | Main | Is there an autism epidemic? »


Is there an autism epidemic?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says 1 in 88 children is now diagnosed with autism. We asked autism experts the question: Is there an autism epidemic? Here's another response from a Canadian researcher. We'll be posting more responses in the coming days.

Jonathan Weiss, Canadian chair in autism research, York University professor:

What a lot of people are saying is there are many reasons why those rates are higher than they were before. One of the major things we are realizing . . . is the complexity around this and that it really is a spectrum of difficulties. Before, we were looking for one specific type of person or look. Now we are seeing things much more broadly. So I think that awareness, better ability to diagnose, better measurement and better ability to track exactly what’s happening might be a lot of the things that are related to the newer numbers relative to older numbers.

When it comes to the cause of this, I’m not the best person to answer that because I’m not looking at the genetics or the environmental influences on the genetics of a very complex disorder.

Awareness, more ability to diagnose and better-trained professionals across Canada and in the U.S. are recognizing many of the people who before weren’t being recognized.


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I wonder if someone could translate the above into a more easily understood language. I think that what he is saying is that we have expanded the definition of autism to include a lot more behaviours and in that we have done that the incidence level has gone up.

I think that what he is trying to explain is that before there weren't many profesionals who knew the meaning of autism but know there are and as a result of it is that we can recognize more people with this diagnose.

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The Autism Project

  • Welcome to the Toronto Star's autism blog, a daily amalgam of breaking news stories, features, trends and ideas flowing from our Autism Project. The blog is written by Star reporters: Kate Allen, Andrea Gordon, Laurie Monsebraaten, Kris Rushowy, Leslie Scrivener, and Tanya Talaga.

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