The difference between 1 in 166 and 1 in 150 apparently sparked the reporting about a new, higher CDC estimate of autism prevalence, even though that change is so slight as to lack any real meaning, especially given the lack of comparability of the source data.
Instead, says Yeargin-Allsopp, when the CDC says the new estimate is higher than in the past, it's referring to studies with much lower estimates that were done in the 1990s, not to more recent ones.
None of this takes away from the importance of ASDs, their enormous impact on affected families and the obvious need for good data, diagnosis and medical research into their causes. Indeed, the importance of the issue makes the need for good information, accurately reported, all the more critical.
Did the CDC and the media's reporting of its numbers move us in that direction yesterday? Look at the excerpt from the news conference below -- and the coverage that followed -- and make your own call.
WILL DUNHAM, REPORTER, REUTERS: Yes, hello. I know that you have not given a nationwide rate, but is there any way you could give a ballpark estimate of how many millions of children nationwide you think fall under this category?
DR. YEARGIN-ALLSOPP: Yes. You're absolutely correct. We have not given a national statistic, and we have given a lot of caveats around the 1 in 150 children. However, if there are 4 million children born in the United States every year, which is the current estimate, if we apply these statistics to the population of children from birth to 21, then we get a number, of 560,000 children in the United States with an ASD.