DC – More children today have a disability than a decade ago, and the
greatest increase is among kids in higher-income families, according to a study
to be presented Sunday, May 5, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual
meeting in Washington, DC.
study also found that disabilities related to physical health conditions have
decreased, while disabilities due to neurodevelopmental and mental health
problems have increased greatly.
6 million kids had a disability in 2009-2010 — almost 1 million more than in 2001-2002,”
said lead author Amy J. Houtrow, MD, PhD, MPH, chief, Division of Pediatric
Rehabilitation Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of
Pittsburgh Medical Center and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation
and pediatrics at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Houtrow said previous studies have indicated that the prevalence of childhood
disability is increasing. She and her colleagues wanted to look more closely at
the conditions and socio-demographic factors associated with disabilities.
researchers analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey conducted
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001-2002 and survey data
from 2009-2010. A total of 102,468 parents of children ages 0-17 years participated
in the surveys.
were asked whether their child had any limitations in play or activity, received
special education services, needed help with personal care, had difficulty
walking without equipment, had difficulty with memory or had any other
they answered yes to any of those questions, they were asked whether their
child’s limitations were due to a vision or hearing problem; asthma or
breathing problem; joint, bone or muscle problem; intellectual deficit or
mental retardation; emotional or behavior problems; epilepsy; learning
disability; speech problems; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; birth
defect; injury or other developmental problem.
classified conditions into three groups: physical, neurodevelopmental/mental
health and other.
showed that the prevalence of disability increased 16.3 percent from 2001-2002 to
neurodevelopmental and mental health-related disabilities increased, those due
to physical conditions decreased. This trend was most notable among children
under 6 years of age whose rate of neurodevelopmental disabilities nearly
doubled over the study period from 19 cases to 36 cases per 1,000 children.
survey did not break out autism, but we suspect that some of the increase in
neurodevelopmental disabilities is due to the rising incidence or recognition
of autism spectrum disorders,” Dr. Houtrow said.
data also showed that children living in poverty experienced the highest rates
of disability at both time periods but not the highest growth. The largest increase
was seen among children living in households with incomes at or above 300
percent of the federal poverty level (about $66,000 a year for a family of
are worried that those living in poverty may be having problems with being
diagnosed and getting services,” Dr. Houtrow said.
the study could not pinpoint why the disability rate is increasing, more
research is needed, she concluded.
view the abstract, “Childhood Disability Trends, 2000-2010,” go to http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS13L1_2600.3.
was funded by Rehabilitation
Medicine Scientist Training Program K12.
The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS)
are four individual pediatric organizations that co-sponsor the PAS Annual
Meeting – the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research,
the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Members of these organizations are pediatricians and other health care
providers who are practicing in the research, academic and clinical arenas. The
four sponsoring organizations are leaders in the advancement of pediatric
research and child advocacy within pediatrics, and all share a common mission
of fostering the health and well-being of children worldwide. For more information, visit www.pas-meeting.org. Follow news of the PAS meeting on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PedAcadSoc.