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Childhood Mental Disability Rates Up, Study Finds

Largest increase reported among wealthier families

continued...

While ADHD increased 22 percent, according to parent reports, learning disabilities dropped 13 percent, the investigators found.

Reports of asthma fell 24 percent, and hearing problems increased 16 percent, the findings showed.

Families earning $89,400 or more in 2011 had the greatest increase in reported disabilities -- nearly 29 percent, the study found. Households earning below the poverty level had a rise of about 11 percent.

Is it healthy or not to label kids as disabled? The study didn't address that, but Houtrow said that "a disability is a normal part of life. We should work to maximize a child's ability."

While there is still some stigma linked with disability, she said, the focus needs to be on understanding a child's limitation and making plans to overcome it.

"The disability doesn't just describe the limitation," she said. "It affects the [child's] interaction with the world."

Acknowledging it and making a plan, she said, "is better than ignoring it."

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