Monday, April 02, 2012

SPED Studies

My wife sent an article about the new numbers on Autism Spectrum Disorders - 1 in 88 now. At the site, paired as a "you-may-also-be-interested" article is one on similar increases in ADHD diagnoses.  So the younger generation continues to go to hell, impeded only by the shortage of handbaskets, apparently.

Conservative sites, even those with mental health professionals writing, often disparage such statistics. It's not only conservatives, actually - lots of people seen convince a priori that we are diagnosing near-normal behavior that has always been present in children and making it sound worse than it is. Lots of kids are fidgety/spacey/awkward/bullies.  We just give it a name and call it an illness now.  I grant some truth to that, but essentially disagree.

But that's another story.  The fun here is the correlation/causation and what-exactly-are-we-measuring problems that Bethany has been talking about over at Bad Data, Bad! The headline says "autism," but the study is about Autism Spectrum Disorders - not the same thing. But it is in the comments that people really spread themselves.  One thinks that screen-based media is interfering with proper dreaming and impeding brain development.  That could be.  Another thinks that genetically-modified organisms are causing it.  That could be. Aspartame, opioids, missing amino acids, gluten, leaky gut syndrome...and I haven't even gotten to vaccinations.  They all could be.*  But evidence, let alone proof is very hard to nail down.  People "feel" things.  Folks "just think" that "fooling around with nature" must be the cause, somehow.

One or more might indeed turn out to be true.  One group of people predicting the end of the world is going to turn out to be right, too - simply because there's always someone claiming it, and the world will eventually end.  I don't think God is going to give them especial credit for dumb luck, but someone will get it right.  So too with autism theories.  Well, it's going to turn out to be something, and it will be some theory that someone eventually had.

*Older birth fathers and genetics have already shown some actual evidence as causes.


bs king said...

Love it of course.

I do think there's a sub case to be made that an increase in diagnosis is pretty circular with a "you can't get any extra help/service etc without one".

At least in Mass, extra help at school and many insurance benefits are tied to that diagnosis code. I have this discussion every time someone brings up the DSM-V and the new stuff being added. Many see this as the pathologizing of daily life, but I think for most professionals it's just about trying to get services for people who you already know need them. Once it's on the books, it expands, nuances, and we repeat.

Texan99 said...

Our brains don't seem to have evolved to deal very well with issues of cause and effect. Most of us pay more attention to what feels dangerous than to what can be demonstrated as a dangerous cause.

Sam L. said...

Well, there's money to be made, and gummint funds to suck up.

1 + 2 = 3

karrde said...

It does seem that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that the 'symptoms' for hyperactivity seemed to be a lot like the symptoms of being a bored young boy...

I do remember meeting someone who was on drugs to handle ADHD, and his parents told stories about uncontrolled hyperactivity when he didn't take his drugs. (He was homeschooled, but may have been diagnosed while in attendance at a traditional school...)

I don't know which is more typical: a bored boy acting out, and being diagnosed as ADHD, or a discovery that a child that cannot act normally without some drugs added to his brain chemistry.

On Autism Spectrum disorders (as with ADHD), there may still be a poor distinction between problem behavior and not-typical behavior.

Could Autism-Spectrum increase also be the result of a fad in psychology?