The proportion of American children diagnosed with a developmental or learning disability has risen sharply since the Covid lockdown, an official report warns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that conditions like dyslexia, autism, cerebral palsy, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are on the rise.
From 2019 to 2021, the number of children ages 3-17 diagnosed with a developmental disability increased from 7.4% to 8.5%.
And boys were twice as likely to have one as girls, with one in 10 being diagnosed. Boys also had higher rates of intellectual disability than girls, with 2.3 percent diagnosed compared to 1.4 percent.
The findings build on previous research linking school closures, mask mandates and online learning to significant drops in academic performance and development.
Covid restrictions have affected children’s development, several studies have shown. This includes reaching vital milestones, recognizing faces, and standing up straight.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that intellectual and developmental disabilities increased in children during the pandemic.
“We’re interested in understanding the prevalence of these conditions in the population so we can make sure we have the right services available to families and children who need them,” said Benamin Zablotsky, a statistician with the US National Center for Health Statistics. CDC and lead author of the report.
The results were part of the agency’s ongoing National Health Interview Survey.
They also show that about three percent of children have autism, a figure that dropped slightly during the pandemic.
While 2.6 percent received a diagnosis between the ages of three and seven, about 3.4 percent received the diagnosis between the ages of eight and 17.
Boys were three times more likely to be diagnosed with autism compared to girls. Only 1.5 percent of girls had it, while 4.7 percent of boys had been diagnosed.
Research suggests that they develop these conditions more often than girls because girls have a ‘protective female model’.
A study in the AJHG journal suggests that women require more extreme gene mutations than men to push them over the threshold for neurodevelopmental disorders.
New CDC figures show that boys were more likely than girls to have a developmental disability, and younger children were more likely to be diagnosed with them.
Boys were also more likely to develop intellectual disabilities. However, unlike developmental conditions, intellectual disabilities were more often diagnosed in older children.
The CDC’s finding that developmental problems are increasing comes amid a slew of evidence that Covid restrictions stunted children’s growth.
A study by researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland looked at 309 babies born between March and May 2020.
Parents were surveyed about 10 developmental milestones after their child was one year old.
These included: saying a definite word, pointing, saying goodbye, being able to stand up, walking sideways, crawling, and stacking bricks.
The results were compared to 2,000 babies born between 2008 and 2011.
The locked babies were 14 percent less likely to have said a definite word, the results showed.
They were also 9 percent less likely to have started pointing and 6 percent less likely to say goodbye.
However, on the other hand, they were also significantly more likely to crawl, at seven percent.
The researchers said: “Lockdown measures may have reduced the repertoire of language heard and the sight of unmasked faces speaking with [infants].
“It may also have reduced opportunities to find new items of interest, which could prompt pointing, and the frequency of social contacts to enable them to learn to wave bye-bye.”
The graph above shows the probability of a particular behavior in pandemic babies compared to non-pandemic babies at their first birthday. Pincer refers to using the thumb and forefinger together. Babies during the pandemic were more likely to crawl, but less likely to talk, point or say goodbye
In addition, an article published last January in the magazine NEVER which looked at 225 children born in 2020 revealed that babies were less likely to crawl and smile to themselves in a mirror within six months. It also showed that they had reduced problem-solving and social skills.
Similarly, brown university The scientists, who tested 1,000 children, found there was a 23 percent drop in the ‘pandemic’ babies’ scores on three cognitive tests: early learning, verbal development and nonverbal development.
Even motor skills like balance have suffered. A study published last year found that school closures damaged children’s ability to walk and stand upright because they had fewer opportunities to be physically active, weakening their leg muscles.
The findings come as more and more adults are diagnosed with these conditions long after childhood.
Actor Rob McElhenney, for example, made headlines this week when he announced that he had been diagnosed with “neurodevelopmental disorders and learning disabilities” at age 46.
“Not something I would normally talk about publicly, but I thought there are others struggling with similar things and I wanted to remind you that you are not alone,” he tweeted.
‘You are not stupid. You’re not bad”. It can feel that way sometimes. But it is not true.’