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Friday, September 25, 2015

Diagnostic Substitution' Drives Autism Spike

The number of children diagnosed with autism has surged around the globe in the past two decades. But new research in Europe and the U.S. suggests much of the increase occurred on paper. But studies in Sweden, Denmark and the U.S. suggest that a significant portion of the increase can be attributed to more diagnoses, rather than to more cases. In other words, increasing numbers of children have been labeled autistic when in the past they might have received a different diagnosis, or in less severe cases, perhaps no diagnosis at all. In scientific jargon, this is called diagnostic substitution: One label replaces another, causing an apparent decrease in the prevalence of the first condition and a corresponding increase in the prevalence of the second.

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