What’s Behind Autism’s Apparent Rise? New Book From Spectrum Explores Condition’s Prevalence

The prevalence of autism diagnoses has skyrocketed over recent decades. In some parts of the world, this uptick has been so significant that experts have characterized it as an ‘epidemic.’ Yet scientists still don’t have a full explanation for autism’s persistent global rise.

A new book published by Spectrum (www.spectrumnews.org) explores the latest research into the recent surge in autism diagnoses — and its potential root causes. Shifting diagnostic criteria, greater awareness, improved screening, cultural differences and people opting to have children later in life could all play a role. The free and downloadable book “Autism by the Numbers: Explaining Its Apparent Rise” teases apart those varied contributions and offers an unprecedented deep dive into the latest findings and analyses.

“Why do autism prevalence numbers keep rising around the world? This book breaks down the underlying, often surprising forces contributing to that trend,” says Spectrum deputy editor Kristin Ozelli.

This book is the fourth assembled by Spectrum’s award-winning team of journalists, who have been covering the twists and turns of science’s effort to unravel the mysteries of autism since 2008. Spectrum is the editorially independent online magazine of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (www.sfari.org), one of the top autism research funders in the world.

“Autism by the Numbers” opens with an in-depth exploration of autism’s prevalence by veteran science journalist W. Wayt Gibbs. Having spent several years collecting data and talking to top scientists in the field, Gibbs systematically walks readers through the latest thinking on the biological factors, societal shifts and methodological influences that could be at play.

The book’s second section brings together Spectrum’s most relevant recent articles on prevalence — news stories, explainers and Q&As — to add a rich layer of background and context over the issues discussed by Gibbs. Within this section, a gatefold features highlights from the “Prevalence Map” project that lives on Spectrum’s site. Under the guidance of an advisory board of autism scientists, the project has charted reliable research on prevalence estimates worldwide for the past three years.

Throughout the book, QR codes give ready access to referenced research papers and further reading. Original artwork from award-winning artists graces its pages, including photography by Richard Drury, illustrations by Rebecca Clarke and overall design by Catherine Casalino.

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