A rather interesting but concerning study to be published in next month’s issue of Pediatrics found the prevalence of children with developmental disabilities increased by 17% between 1997 and 2008... a number which translates to nearly 10 million of U.S. children in 2008 having a developmental disability.
The CDC used data from the National Health Interview Surveys (ongoing nationally representative samples of U.S. households) to determine the number of children from 3-17 years of age with ADHD, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, seizures, stuttering, moderate to profound hearing loss, blindness, learning disorders and other developmental delays and over the course of the 12-year study period, the prevalence of any developmental disability rose from 12.8 percent to just over 15 percent.
The findings confirmed results we’ve already been seeing this past decade... specifically increased numbers with autism (for reasons still not completely clear), ADHD (probably secondary to a greater acceptance in making the diagnosis) and other developmental delays (certainly increased acceptance in diagnosing sensory issues over the past decade). And yes, as I’m sure many of you are already thinking, the numbers are certainly higher for boys than girls. What was great to see was moderate to severe hearing loss showed a significant decline (probably a result of identifying mild hearing loss in the infantile stage and intervening sooner).
But the concern this all creates is that as the identification of childhood developmental disabilities is increasing, government resources and private insurance coverage for appropriate services is decreasing in an already tough economic climate. And when research has proven that early intervention is key to making a difference, this is not the time to pull back on resources that would benefit 1 out of every 6 children here in the U.S. If we are to follow the motto of “our children are our future” we hear repeatedly from politicians and even health insurance companies alike, then what we need is more health, education, and treatment services for our children with developmental disabilities.
We owe it to our children... they are our future.