Currently Browsing: the brain

Is Autism Increasing?

I’m going to digress from the topic of reading for a moment.  Have you been wondering why so many children seem to be affected by autism-spectrum difficulties?  I have. Here’s some interesting news from the M.I.N.D. Institute at Davis, California. The M.I.N.D. Institute has been searching for clues to autism’s increase. Although the criteria for diagnosing autism have broadened and children are being diagnosed at an earlier age, these factors don’t explain even half of the huge increases in California cases.

The Institute reports,

“The incidence of autism by age 5 in California has increased from slightly over 6 in 10,000 children born in 1990 to more than 42 in 10,000 for children born in 2001.”

This is an estimated 600-700% increase!  Less than one-tenth of the increase can be attributed to inclusion of milder cases, and only 24% of the increase can be attributed to earlier age of diagnosis.  Another 120% is possibly attributable to changes in diagnostic criteria.  So, really only about one third of the increase can be explained by those factors

So what’s left?  The environment!  The Institute suggests that a careful look at environmental exposures is warranted, especially for their possible affect on genetically susceptible children. They are doing some fascinating studies that I will try to comment on in future blogs.

THE GOOD NEWS—Many Reading Problems Can Be Prevented!

I’m getting on a plane tomorrow to fly from San Francisco to Boston for a week.  I’m attending a conference where I’ll have a chance to talk to many friends and colleagues who have, like me, decided to spend their lives trying to understand why some children have difficulty learning to read and what we might be able to do about it.

It’s the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, a gathering of over 300 researchers from around the world who study everything about reading — brain structure and function, related cognitive and behavioral issues, and instruction and intervention techniques. You can find abstracts of the talks on the SSSR web site.  I look forward to learning new things to add to the knowledge I have accumulated from my own research over the last 37 years.

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