This just in ... a new report compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the number of U.S. children with developmental disabilities has been steadily climbing over the past decade, reaching nearly one in six from 2006 to 2008. According to the report, published in the journal Pediatrics, boys were twice as likely as girls to have a developmental disability.
The study was based on ongoing national surveys of children younger than 18. Researchers 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 — primarily disabilities that tend to require more services in the school system. Their findings? From 1997 to 2008, the percentage of children with at least one developmental disability rose from less than 13 percent to more than 15 percent — 2 percentage points that add up to an extra 1.8 million kids.
Is it better data or are there really that many more kids with learning disabilities than there were a decade ago? It's probably a combination of both. It does seem that parents and teachers are more aware of these conditions than ever before and are more likely to attach a label for even the slightest case in the hopes of nipping a condition in the bud and helping students get access to early treatment. Personally, I know a number of extremely smart kids who have been tagged as autistic because they display a few quirky behaviors when interacting with other kids. Are they really autistic or are they just having a hard time playing "Rock Star" or "princess ponies" when they'd rather be reading about dinosaurs in the Mesozoic era?
Either way, the current trend toward early labeling is not necessarily a bad thing. It means that kids who might have flown under the radar before — but still struggled socially or academically — may have access to better tools for learning and interacting with their peers than their predecessors.
What do you think?