The United States of Autism?

For 10 years the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking the increase in diagnoses of autism in kids. Last month, the CDC released data showing that one in 88 children in the United States is being diagnosed with a cluster of symptoms associated with autism, which include:

• rigidity, or opposition to change

• difficulty interacting with others

• trouble making eye contact

• attachment to objects

• issues with language and self-expression. The results are skewed towards boys, with one in 54 being diagnosed, as compared to one in 252 girls. This is a 23 percent increase in cases since the CDC’s last report in 2009. But more shockingly is the 78 percent increase since 2007.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Rates Increasing, CDC Report Finds

According to new Centers for Disease Control data, the prevalence rates for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children has increased, with an estimated one in 88 eight-year-olds in the United States currently diagnosed with an ASD such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome. In a Surveillance Summary published last week in the Morbidity and Mortality Report, the CDC notes a 23 percent jump in autism spectrum disorder diagnoses from 2006 to 2008, with an estimated 78 percent increase in cases from 2002 to 2008. According to the findings, the diagnosis rates between black and Hispanic children and whites are closing, with African-American children being diagnosed at a rate of 10.2 cases per 1,000 compared to 12 cases per 1,000 for Caucasian children. The new data reports that 7.9 in 1,000 Hispanic children may be affected by disorders such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS ). According to the findings, boys are five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

Federal Appeals Court OKs Class Action Lawsuit for Families Denied Autism Therapy

Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals refused a petition from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan that would have overturned an earlier ruling allowing families denied certain autism therapy coverage to push forward with a class action lawsuit. Last November, a judge’s ruling in Potter v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan gave clearance to parents to sue the organization for rejecting Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as an insurable treatment, which Blue Cross deemed an “experimental” form of therapy. The rejection of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s petition gives the go-ahead for two families to press forward with a class action suit, on behalf of all families denied therapy coverage by the organization. The case is the second such class-action lawsuit brought against the organization in three years, following 2010’s Johns v. Blue Cross, a previous Michigan case in which the organization reimbursed almost 100 families that were denied Applied Behavior Analysis therapy coverage. Despite Blue Cross’ claims that Applied Behavior Analysis is an unproven form of treatment, many organizations, including the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have all lauded the treatment as an effective form of therapy.

Redefining Mental Disorders Could Have Implications for Treatment, Insurance, Education

When the American Psychiatric Association (APA) announced tentative plans to officially redefine a number of autism spectrum disorders, the controversial news was met with both praise and criticism by many mental health professionals, educators and parents across the United States. Under the proposed changes, the criteria for diagnosing autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) would be much stricter, with clients needing to display at least seven out of nine symptoms outlined in the fifth edition of the APA’s guide on disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Currently, clients need to display at least eight out of fourteen symptoms detailed in the DSM-IV to warrant an autism disorder diagnosis. The changes could prove crucial to the estimated 1.5 million children and adults in the United States affected by autism spectrum disorders, as the DSM is often used as a guideline to establish treatment, insurance coverage and access to healthcare and special education services. Additionally, the DSM-V proposals would re-categorize autism spectrum disorders into three levels based on the severity of the individual’s social communication deficits and tendencies to engage in restrictive interests and/or repetitive behaviors.

The Tragic Story of an Innocent Child

At the age of four William* was found wandering naked in his neighborhood. His home was “deplorable and unsanitary,” his room was covered in feces and urine. He was discovered to have suffered sexual abuse, and … he was kept in a cage. Some could argue that meth made her do it, his mom that is. Drug addict or not, William’s mother was charged with three felony child cruelty counts and is in prison today.

Special Needs Victims and Witnesses: Free Training Seminar

The Office of the Child Advocate/Child Fatality Review is pleased to announce the following training: “Special Needs Victims and Witnesses: Best Practices in Investigations Involving Children with Autism and Other Communication Disabilities”

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Winfield Hall, 3890 Satellite Blvd, Duluth, GA 30096

Course Description:

Recent data suggests that 1 in 100 children and 1 in 70 boys are currently being diagnosed with some form of autism.  Special needs children are at increased risk of abuse and there is growing concern that the child welfare and criminal justice systems are neither equipped nor trained to appropriately investigate such cases.  This course addresses the specific communication issues typical in cases involving victims and witnesses with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other disabilities affecting communication.  Some of these typical core issues in cases involving special needs victims and witnesses include: overcoming communication issues, recognizing the significance of the disability to the case, and how best to utilize the resources available for assistance.  Case studies will be utilized to discuss approaching investigations, interactions with families of special needs children, prevention strategies, child protection issues and charging decisions. 

Our instructors:

Lori Brown:  Lori is the Director of Forensic Services for the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.  Lori is a highly qualified forensic interviewer who has trained statewide and nationally on best practices in forensic interviews of children with disabilities. Rachelle Carnesale, JD: Currently the acting director of the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate, Rachelle is a former child abuse prosecutor who continues to regularly consult with and train child abuse professionals at the state and national levels. Dave Nelson, MS, LPC: A licensed counselor, Dave is the Director of The Community School in Decatur, Georgia.  Dave specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families with a focus on developing the interactive, emotional, and learning capabilities of children.  Dave is a national expert on ASD and the issues surrounding that population.  

Who should come?  Anyone interested in the topic.  While this training was prepared with district attorneys, public defenders, law enforcement, medical professionals, and school personnel, this topic certainly affects other professions and therefore, all are welcome.  Come learn how to better investigate your cases involving this growing group of children.  Bring your questions as the speakers anticipate an interactive session with the audience.   



8:30 Registration

9:00 – 12:00 Dave Nelson, MS, LPC

Beyond Rainman:

Understanding Individuals with

Autism Spectrum Disorders in the

Context of Law Society, and Crime

What are the core challenges of Autism Spectrum

Disorders?          •  What do people with ASD “look like” and how do

                   they act?