One in Six U.S. Kids Reportedly Developmentally Disabled

Filed under: In The News, Special Needs

developmentally disabled

At least one in every six children is now considered developmentally disabled. Credit: Getty Images

Some say there is an epidemic of children with autism and ADHD. Others say it is really an epidemic of hyperactive parents, teachers, counselors and medical practitioners too eager to diagnose and label.

Whatever the reason for the number of kids tagged as developmentally disabled, USA Today reports those numbers are soaring. At least one in every six children in the United States is now considered developmentally disabled -- a spike of 17 percent in the past dozen years.

That means, on average, every American elementary school classroom has at least three kids with a developmental disability.

The newspaper reports this is largely due to the number of kids diagnosed with autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

While some are cynical in their view the autism and ADHD epidemics, Sheree Boulet of the Centers for the Disease Control tells USA Today the rise could be result of more premature births. And the side effects of premature birth are no concoction of over-reactive parents, she tells the newspaper. They can definitely cause lasting impairments.

Boulet led a study tracking the latest numbers of kids with developmental disabilities. The results are in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics.

It may be better to diagnose kids too much rather than too little, Alison Schonwald of Children's Hospital Boston tells USA Today. It used to be that kids who displayed the symptoms of autism and ADHD were dismissed as odd and left to twist in the wind, she says.

Nowadays, she adds, children are at least getting help for their challenges.

"It's great to diagnose them early, so we can intervene early and help them reach their full potential," she tells USA Today. "It's much more daunting to think of the number of adults out there who have never been identified and served."

Related: ADHD or Paranoid Parents? One or the Other Is Increasing

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