Spectrum Disorders: Facts, Statistics, and Treatment
Affecting children and persisting into the adult years, spectrum disorders can significantly impair a child’s ability to engage in society and perform everyday functions. Known to exist in varying levels of severity, spectrum disorders are named such because of the way they can manifest differently from child to child. The most common spectrum disorder today is autism or ASD, which occurs at a rate of 1 in every 160 children globally. And although some individuals might experience the symptoms of ASD more profoundly, modern-day research has made it possible for medical experts to provide patients with an effective therapy that can help them cope more efficiently with independent living.
Fast Facts: Spectrum Disorders in Numbers
- Boys are four times more likely to get diagnosed with ASD
- Most children are diagnosed by the age of four, but spectrum disorders can be diagnosed as early as the age of two
- 31% of children diagnosed with ASD have intellectual disability
- If the first child has ASD, there’s a 2% to 18% chance that the second child will have the same condition
- At least one in every 250 people has Asperger’s syndrome
- The prevalence of ASD in the United States rose by 119.4% between 2000 and 2010
- The cost of lifelong care for spectrum disorders can be reduced by up to 66% with early diagnosis and intervention
Risk Factors for Spectrum Disorders
Spectrum disorders are relatively common, affecting 1% of the global population. And because they can cause significant impairment, especially as a child ages, it’s imperative to diagnose the condition as early as possible to provide intervention and help the child develop skills that can reduce the severity of the disease.
Unfortunately, not all parents know the signs of spectrum disorders, nor do they fully understand the risk factors involved. But by familiarizing themselves with the different factors that increase the risk of a diagnosis, individuals might be able to determine the likelihood of a family member or a child having the condition.
- Family history: Strong evidence suggests that spectrum disorders are genetic. In families where parents or children have autism, an unborn baby’s risk of having the condition rises to 9 times. If the first child has autism, the next has an 18% chance of having it. If the first baby has it, the second has a 95% chance for identical twins. For fraternal, the risk is 31%.
- Gender: Boys are four times more likely to receive a spectrum disorder diagnosis than girls. And while the reasons for this are unknown, couples with a family history of spectrum disorders are cautioned of the increased risk when conceiving a male child.
- Parental ages: Research has established a link between the age of a child’s parents and the risk of developing a spectrum disorder. It seems that the older the parents are at the time of conception, the higher the risk; however, the exact reason remains unknown.
- Preterm birth: Babies born before 26 weeks have a much higher chance of developing autism or other spectrum disorders. The same goes for preterm babies who experience more complications during birth, which is associated with the child’s altered cognitive development.
- Presence of other disorders: Babies born with pre-existing medical conditions like chromosomal aberrations are at a higher risk of receiving a spectrum disorder diagnosis later in life.
Some studies suggest that environmental factors may also play a role in developing spectrum disorders. Pollution, viral infection, and even exposure to certain chemicals have contributed. However, further studies are required. What’s sure, however, is that vaccinations do not contribute to any of these disorders.