AUTISM: Number of Autistic Children Rising, Cause Unknown
The number of autistic children continues to skyrocket in California with 416 new cases registered at regional centers from January through March, the Contra Costa Times/San Jose Mercury News reports. The jump, 3.4% in three months, has baffled experts worldwide. Between 1987 and 1999, the number of autistic children in regional centers rose 273% with a 19% increase last year alone. The total number of cases reached 12,566 by the end of March. While some experts attribute the rise to better diagnoses from doctors and an expanded definition of the disease, others fear that environmental factors, such as toxins or adverse reactions to vaccines, may be triggering autism in children. "It's looking more and more like there is actually a legitimate increase in the number of kids who are being affected," Ron Huff, a psychologist for the state Department of Developmental Services, said. The California legislature allocated $1 million for UC-Davis' MIND Institute to conduct a statewide study which will begin this month and take about 18 months to complete (Kleffman, 5/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.