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(Ireland) Irish Times dismisses any REAL INCREASE IN AUTISM

Nov 6, 2019, Irish Times: Why are so many children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders? Why are so many more children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than 20 years ago? Galway-based consultant speech and language therapist Karen O’Connor suggests it’s time to progress the conversation nationally and internationally about this “autism epidemic”. Although there have been many studies on the epidemiology of ASD internationally, uncertainty remains about the true prevalence of ASD globally. The World Health Organisation estimates that one in 160 children has an ASD, but some well-controlled studies have reported figures as high as one in 59 children…. Based on epidemiological studies conducted over the past two decades, the prevalence of ASD does appears to be increasing globally. However, some experts argue that the rise in the number of diagnosed cases does not necessarily mean that the condition is becoming more widespread, but may be due to improved awareness, expansion of the diagnostic criteria, better diagnostic tools and improved reporting. The Department of Health’s report Estimating Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Irish Population: A Review of Data studies and Epidemiological Studies, November 2018, points out that, in many countries – including Ireland – a diagnosis of autism gives children greater access to specialised services and special education services such as special needs assistance than do diagnoses of other conditions. “This benefit makes clinicians more likely to diagnose a child with autism, even those who are on the borderline of the clinical criteria,” the report notes. Misdiagnosis Karen O’Connor, consultant speech and language therapist and director of services at the Child Development Centre in Galway and Dublin, believes one of the reasons for the increase in the number of ASD diagnoses over the past 20 years may be that many children are being misdiagnosed with ASD when they have sensory processing disorder (SPD), a similar but different condition. … “It’s time to start a conversation nationally and internationally about this. Why are so many children being diagnosed with autism now compared with 20 years ago? Are we missing something? Are we looking at all the pieces of the developmental jigsaw? Why are so many children being diagnosed with autism when it could, in fact, be sensory processing disorder, often exacerbated by biomedical factors such as allergies and intolerances? Sensory integration and biomedical interventions are two critical pieces of the jigsaw that are not being looked at for so many children.”… However, her vast experience working with children and families both on and off the spectrum in public and private settings over the past 20 years has left her firmly convinced that at least half the children she sees at her clinics either with or awaiting a diagnosis of autism do not actually have autism. O’Connor has seen children with a range of challenges – including ASD, SPD, learning disabilities, speech and language difficulties and reading and writing difficulties – improve significantly through the LiFT sound therapy programme she uses in her clinic. …


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