Developmental disabilities on the rise
Nearly 1 in 6 US children have developmental disabilities. And it's getting worse.
"The take-home message for parents would be to promote early identification and screening of children," said Sheree Boulet, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "These children require more services."

The study, based on ongoing national surveys of children under 18, looked at a range of disabilities, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, blindness, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, seizures, stuttering or stammering and other developmental delays.

From 1997 to 2008, the proportion of children with at least one of the conditions rose from less than 13% to more than 15% - representing an extra 1.8 million kids.

Why is it getting worse?

There is a bigger emphasis on early treatment today, and parents are more likely to be aware of the conditions, so kids who might not have been diagnosed in the past are being recognized now.

Part of the increase might also be due to a change in risk factors, such as parents getting older and having more preterm babies.

Most of the rise was driven by the rate of ADHD, which went from 5.7% to 7.6% over the 12-year study. Autism rates showed the fastest growth, from 0.2% to 0.7%, while hearing loss dropped by nearly a third.

While the findings are consistent with earlier reports, Maureen Durkin noted, "the big limitation of this work is that it is based on parent reports."

Not all parents may be aware that their child has a developmental disability, and so the numbers might actually be an underestimate.

According to the CDC report, published in the journal Paediatrics, boys were twice as likely as girls to have a developmental disability.

Are you aware of developmental disabilities that your child may have?


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