Many autism advocacy groups use the data collected by the US Department of Education (USDE) to show a rapidly increasing prevalence of autism. Closer examination of these data to follow each birth-year cohort reveals anomalies within the USDE data on autism. The USDE data show not only a rise in overall autism prevalence with time but also a significant and nearly linear rise in autism prevalence within a birth-year cohort as it ages, with significant numbers of new cases as late as 17 years of age. In addition, an unexpected reduction in the rise of autism prevalence occurs in most cohorts at 12 years of age, the age when most children would be entering middle school. These anomalies point to internal problems in the USDE data that make them unsuitable for tracking autism prevalence.
- Accepted January 13, 2004.
- Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Pediatrics