May 6, 2013: "The changing landscape of child disability" in the U.S. was noted at a conference over the weekend where researchers announced that while the number of disabled children has risen 16.3% over the past decade (to 6 million children) -- and while children living in poverty still experience the highest rates of disability -- the highest growth in disabilities were experienced only by children living in households with incomes 300-400%+ above the federal poverty level.
Concurrently, disabilities in neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions -- as opposed to physical disabilities -- were found by researchers (from National Health Interview Survey datasets) to be on the rise, nearly doubling (18.7 cases per 1,000 ten years ago to 35.6 cases/1,000 in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available).
Reporting at this weekend's Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington D.C., Amy J. Houtrow, M.D., at left, chief of the Div. of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said this rise, which is most prevalent in the 0-6 age group, "...is concerning and warrants further study and further research...to determine etiology of these changing trends."
“There’s a very large increase in the percentage of children under the age of 5 [that] are now considered disabled and this is particularly concerning because we have a strong understanding of the value and importance of that developmental time period,” Houtrow said.
However, physical disability from physical conditions declined.
Researchers also found that children living in poverty experienced the highest rates of disability, 92.7 cases per 1,000 in 2001 to 2002 and 101.4 cases per 1,000 in 2009 to 2010. However, only children living in households with incomes 300% to 399% and 400% or above the federal poverty level experienced statistically significant disability rates over the study period (28% and 23.9%, respectively).
“We are talking about children who live in households where their parents have a college education,” Houtrow said. “We are talking about households where their income is above 300% of the Federal Poverty Level and that is very different from what we would have expected based on what we know about sociodemographic disparities.”