Childhood Autism ‘Growing At An Epidemic Rate’ in Hawaii

Honolulu – Childhood autism in Hawaii is growing at an epidemic rate, according to Autism Society of Hawaii officials.

The state Department of Education has categorised more than 720 kids with autism out of about 23,000 in special education in 2002, or about 3.1 per cent, compared with 1 per cent nationally, said Naomi Grossman, the Autism Society of Hawaii president.

“It’s no longer just an alarming rate; it’s an epidemic pace, and
we’re really concerned because it could be due to a lot of things, like the
Brick Township in New Jersey,” Grossman said.

In Brick Township, the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), found in 1998 that 6.7 out of every 1,000 children aged
three to ten had autism disorders. The rate – three times greater than in
previous years – suggested a possible geographic cluster. An investigation
indicated the number of cases could be affected by environmental factors as
well as genetic influences.

Usually diagnosed before the age of six, autism is a spectrum of
neuropsychiatric disorders affecting a person’s ability to interact socially
and communicate, causing unusual and repetitive behaviour.

The number of Hawaii residents aged six to 22 diagnosed with autism
rose to 528 in 2002 from 64 in 1993, according to Fighting Autism, a
research and advocacy organization.

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