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New diagnostic tools leading to better identification of autism cases expert

An apparent “epidemic” of autism cases is probably just the result of better identification of the disorder, according to expert Kimberly Mills.

She spoke about the disorder at a meeting of the Hamilton Rotary Club yesterday. Dr Mills said she is familiar enough with autism's signature traits to be able to spot it from Facebook pictures.

Tell-tale signs include poor eye contact, a lack of smiling, and not responding to names. These normally emerge in a child's first few years.

Noting that cases are becoming more frequent, Dr Mills said: “Is there an epidemic of autism? If you look at the news, you might think yes.

“There may be an epidemic, and there may be not. Current data suggests incidences have not increased. We've just got better diagnostic tools.”

The world rate for autism was one in 150 in 2007 and one in 110 in 2010. “More recently that's increased to one in 90 or one in 80,” Dr Mills said.

However, she pointed out that the incidence of intellectual disability has fallen even as autism rose. “Kids with autism used to be labelled ‘mentally retarded',” Dr Mills said. “With our better diagnostic tools, we can give it the right name.”

Dr Mills is the chairwoman of Tomorrow's Voices, an early intervention centre for autism.

She said that rigorous early intervention had proven a major factor in the treatment of autism. Founded in 2007, the group currently treats between 12 and 14 children.

One point was laid to rest: fears that autism is linked to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine have turned out to be unfounded, she said.

“The Center for Disease Control's research has shown no connection between vaccines and autism,” Dr Mills said, pointing out that the disorder manifests around the age of two to three years, the same time that most children get their immunisations.

Useful web links:,

Dr Kimberly Mills, Executive Director of Tomorrow's Voices.

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Published March 30, 2011 at 9:31 am (Updated March 30, 2011 at 9:31 am)

New diagnostic tools leading to better identification of autism cases expert

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