ALTOONA - Some Pennsylvania researchers say childhood disability rates are the highest ever recorded. The study from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh shows physical disabilities dropped by about 12 percent, but disabilities related to brain development or mental health rose nearly 21 percent, in the past decade.
Doctors from Children's Hospital studied data from the Centers for Disease Control, gathered between 2001 and 2011, evaluating children's ability to perform activities at home and school.
Children living in poverty have the highest rates of disability, but the study showed more a 28.4 percent increase in disabilities among kids in higher income families.
One local pediatrician has seen a big rise in the number of children diagnosed with autism. At Pediatric Healthcare Associates, in Altoona, Dr. Nader Younes believes increased awareness is largely responsible for the increase.
"My feeling is the problem has been there, but right now, maybe in the last ten years, we are more aware of it and we get more help from schools and daycare and it helps to diagnose this kind of disability," Dr. Younes explains.
Dr Younes says the biggest increase has been in autism diagnoses, but he's also seen a rise in the number children with ADHD. He says other brain development and mental health issues have remained steady.
Dr. Younes believes it's important to now look for the reasons why these disabilities are so prevalent.