Milder autism far outpacing ‘profound’ diagnoses

April 19, 2023  -NEW YORK (AP) — As autism diagnoses become increasingly common, health officials have wondered how many U.S. kids have relatively mild symptoms and how many have more serious symptoms, such as very low IQ and inability to speak.

A first-of-its-kind study released Wednesday shows the rate of such “profound” autism is rising, though far slower than milder autism cases.

“It’s very important to know how many people have profound autism so that we can properly prepare for their needs,” including more health and education services, said Alison Singer, executive director of the advocacy and research group Autism Science Foundation.

Singer — the mother of a 25-year-old woman with profound autism — was a co-author of the paper, which was published by the journal Public Health Reports. Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention led the research.

Though autism has been diagnosed for at least 80 years, the new study is the first to put a number on the share of U.S. children who have the most severe version of it. It comes less than two years after an international commission of autism experts established a definition of profound autism: children with an IQ of 50 or less, and/or kids who can’t communicate through speaking.

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