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Interesting information in the National Children’s Health Survey

Posted Aug 27 2009 10:37pm

The National Children’s Health Survey (NCHS) has a lot of data and I think it’s worth the time to see what sorts of questions and informtion we can get from it. I’ve already discussed data from this a number of times, but these are questions I don’t see other’s asking.

The survey questions and the distribution of the answers for the entire population surveyed can be found here.

I’ll compare data from that document to how the same questions are answered for kids who are identified by the parents as “having autism or an ASD ”.

So, going question by question (with me paraphrasing the questions), in no particular order:

Is child using a prescription med (non vitamin)

autistic: 45.7%
all famililies: 21.7

Not surprising that more autistic kids take prescription meds. It would be interesting to know what sorts of medications are common. I can’t find it right now, but I recall a recent paper that showed even higher numbers for adolescents and young adults.


autistic: 12.1%
all families: 3.4%

I am not surprised, but saddened to see that statistic.

Does the family have medical insurance:
autistic: 95.4%
all families: 92.4%

I’m sort of amazed that the numbers were that high for both groups.

Does the child have some form of state run medical insurance
autistic: 34.5%
non-autistic: 21.6%

Does medical insurance always cover costs?
autistic: 45.3%
all families: 69.5%

I am not surprised that parents have more out-of-pocket expenses for autistic kids. Just the question of whether autistic kids are less healthy (per our recent post) would suggest more out of pocket. More CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), more therapies like speech and OT, all of these would result in more out of pocket expenses for parents of autistic kids.

Has a doctor told you that [child] has a food or digestive allergy?
Autistic: 14.8%
all families: 5.1%

I’m half surprised that this statistic hasn’t been heard more—about threetimes higher food or digestive allergy? Then again, I think many would be surprised to see such a low number as 14.8%.

Again, this is a doctor telling the parent that the child has allergies. I imagine many parents are told this when seeing a DAN doctor.

Does the child have Eczema
autistic: 21.5%
non-autistic: 12.4%

Eczema does come up a lot in online discussions. Not as much as food allergies (specifically gluten and casein).

Are the kids living in a household where the parents are married?
69.4% of families who identified their child as autistic
74.0% of all families who responded.

There is a commonly quoted statistic that autism parents have a divorce rate of about 80%. This doesn’t support that.

This also doesn’t support the idea that 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce, but that is a strange statistic anyway.

did the child have fever or resperatory allergy in the last year
Autistic: 26.8%
general population: 18.0%

Does the child have bone, joint or muscle problems
autistic: 11.9%
total population: 2.3%

I would have expected this to be higher, given the number of kids in OT. Would a gross motor or fine motor problem be categorized as a “muscle” problem? I would think so.

Does the child have epilepsy/seizures
autistic: 7.1%
total population: 0.57%

I hear a lot of different numbers for how many autistic kids have seizures—I’ve heard up to 30% for autistic kids. However, this number (7%) is consistent with data from the California Department of Developmental Services, from what I recall.

Does the child have Asthma
autistic: 12.5%
total population: 8.7%

Does the child have speech problems
autistic: 40.0%
total population: 2.9%

Not surprising that this would be very high, in my opinion.

Does the child have developmental Delay
Autistic: 59.8%
total population: 2.67%

For autistics, the level of developmental delay is reported as:
18.6% mild
26.2% moderate
14.5% severe

it is interesting that 40% of autistic/ASD kids are not listed as having a developmental delay. This isn’t saying that 40% don’t have developmental delays—the question is more complicated than that.

I need to go back and check these data against kids with developmental delays. In other words, a good comparison is autistic kids vs. developmentally delayed kids in order to see if some of the conditions are autism specific or common in the developmental delay population.

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