Increase in Developmental Disabilities in U.S. Children

Decrease in hearing loss; increased prevalence of autism, ADHD, and other disabilities

MONDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of developmental disabilities increased in the United States from 1997 to 2008, according to a study published online May 23 in Pediatrics.

Coleen A. Boyle, Ph.D., from the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues investigated the prevalence of developmental disabilities in U.S. children from 1997 to 2008. Data on 119,367 children, aged 3 to 17 years, were collected from National Health Interview Surveys. Diagnoses were reported by parents for conditions including attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, seizures, stammering, moderate to profound hearing loss, blindness, learning disorders, and/or other developmental delays.

The investigators found that the prevalence of any developmental disabilities increased from 12.84 to 15.04 percent during the study period. The overall and specific prevalence of a number of disabilities was higher in boys than girls. Higher prevalence of many disabilities was correlated with low income and public health insurance. The prevalence of a number of disabilities was lowest in Hispanic children compared to non-Hispanic white and black children. Across all sociodemographic subgroups, there was a significant decline in hearing loss; whereas, autism, ADHD, and other developmental delays increased, except for a decrease in autism among non-Hispanic black children.

"Developmental disabilities are common and were reported in approximately one in six children in the United States in 2006 to 2008. The number of children with select developmental disabilities (autism, ADHD, and other developmental delays) has increased, requiring more health and education services," the authors write.

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