Ten years ago, the incidence of autism was one case for every 1,000 births, and now it is one for every 67. However, the cases of severe autism have not increased - so what has been happening?
The response from experts, based on facts, is that nowadays there is over-diagnosis, especially of the autistic spectrum.
Their conclusion is that one in every four children diagnosed (25%) don't really have this disorder, explained Susana Ortigosa, clinical psychologist in the mental health unit at the Clínico hospital, where a forum was organised recently to discuss autism.
In her address, Susana said that "a diagnosis should be a compass that guides and never a label that judges and limits".
She explained that patients are coming to consultations after having already been diagnosed as being autistic, "a diagnosis which doesn't take into account the child's history, links and the characteristics of the times we live in, forgetting that a child is a subject under construction with a history and an open future".
About 140 professionals from Andalucía, working in the fields of health, social services and education, took part in the conference. It was organised by the clinical management unit of the mental health department at the hospital, which is run by Javier Romero.
Susana Ortigosa said that children with difficulties with language and problems relating to other children are being classified as having an autistic spectrum disorder which they don't actually have.
These children, with suitable help, overcome this isolation and become "normalised".
Electronics and language
"The autistic spectrum is increasingly encompassing more things, and that facilitates an erroneous diagnosis," she explained. She also said that children spend a great deal of time playing with electronic devices, something which makes it more difficult for them to learn language correctly and that holds them back.
She stressed that once a child is classified as autistic, even though he or she isn't, it is very difficult for that label to be removed.
Another speaker at the forum was Beatriz Janin, clinical psychologist and a lecturer at different universities and institutions in Argentina and Spain.