If you are using California data to claim an autism epidemic, you’re doing it wrong. Or:The great anti-epidemic of intellectual disability in California.

by eirenehogan

This is an excellent post about the so-called ‘autism epidemic’ and how the increase in autism numbers is probably due to an equivalent decrease in the numbers of intellectually disabled (ID), ie, those formerly diagnosed as ID are now diagnosed as autistic. As the understanding of these conditions increases then the various conditions which cause an ‘intellectual disability’ is being teased out, hence the ID diagnosis will decrease but the other conditions will increase. In reality it is still the same number of people, they are just put into different criteria.

Left Brain Right Brain

If you’ve been reading about autism online, you have almost certainly read that autism “rates” are on the rise. But what if I told you that here in California intellectual disability has been dropping for over 20 years?

For many years the mainstay of the “autism is an epidemic” idea was the California Department of Developmental Services data. The CDDS keeps track of how many Californians are getting support under a number of specific disability categories. These data are publicly available (although not as easily available in the past), which makes them an easy source of data.

It’s easy to take a cursory look at the CDDS data and think “these are official data. Look at how much autism has increased!” Or claim “the CDDS only serves “severe” autism, there’s no way they were missed in the past.” You can even find a few publications to cite to back up…

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