Prevalence of Autism Rises
Washington, D.C. (March 27, 2014) – Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data on the prevalence of autism in the United States. This surveillance study identified 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Autism Estimates Continue to Rise: New Data to Drive Action for Communities and Families
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children (or 14.7 per 1,000 eight-year-olds) in the United States has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a surveillance summary report, “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder among Children Aged 8 Years- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2010.”
According to the new report:
- The estimated number of children identified with ASD continues to rise.This latest estimate is roughly 30 percent higher than previous estimates fromCDC’s autism tracking system.
- Some things about ASD have remained the same. For example, ASD is almost five times more common among boys than girls. White children are more likely to be identified with ASD than Black or Hispanic children. And, most children with ASD are still not diagnosed until after age 4, even though ASD can be diagnosed as early as age 2.
- However, the picture of ASD in communities is changing. Almost half of children identified with ASD have average or above average intellectual ability (an IQ of 85 and above) compared to a third of children a decade ago.
CDC continues to be in the forefront of documenting changes in the picture of autism over time. More is understood about autism than ever before, but there is an urgent need to continue the search for answers and provide help now for people living with autism.
- You know your child best. If you have a concern about how your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, or moves, take action. Don’t wait.
- All parents can track their child’s development with CDC’s free milestone checklists. Childcare workers, educators and health care providers have a role to play.
- Learn more about CDC’s Birth to 5 Watch Me Thrive! initiative which promotes developmental screenings in child care centers and doctors’ offices.
If you are concerned:
- Talk to your child’s doctor. Click here to learn how.
- Call your local early intervention program or school system for a free evaluation.
- Remember, you don’t need a diagnosis to get services.
- It’s never too late to get help for your child.
Research tells us the earlier a child with autism is identified and connected to services, the better. That’s why it’s so important for every parent to track their child’s development and act quickly if there is a concern.
More information to come!
The CDC’s 1 in 88 estimate of autism prevalence is based on medical and school records of 8-year-old children at monitoring sites across the country. As such, it misses children who are not receiving medical or special education services related to autism. The new 1 in 50 estimate comes from a 2011-2012 telephone survey that asked nearly 100,000 parents across the country a range of health-related questions about children ages 6 to 17.
“This number does not replace the official 1 in 88 estimate, but does suggest that it may be a significant underestimate of autism prevalence in the U.S.,” says Autism Speaks Associated Director of Public Health Research Michael Rosanoff, M.P.H. “One in fifty, or 2 percent, is much closer to what we’ve seen from research that involves directly screening children in the community.”
CDC Reports 1 in 50 American Children Diagnosed with Autism
According to a new report that has generated significant debate in mainstream media and all over the Internet, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 in 50 children between the ages of 6 and 17 has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
This represents a 72% increase in the diagnosis since 2007, when a similar report claimed a rate of 1 in 88 children.
The new study, undertaken to evaluate a fourfold increase in parent-reported ASD,
was based on telephone surveys of households with children and compared parent-reported autism diagnoses in 2011-2012 with similar reporting for 2007. The new report revealed increases in diagnosis of autism across nearly all categories but, as is often the case in a discussion of autism, there is more to the story than a simple, though alarming, upward trend.
Increased Diagnosis of Autism in Boys and Adolescents
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) comprises a wide range of disability, but generally includes an element of difficulty in communication, behavior and social interaction. The information gathered from the 2012 survey showed that much of the increase in diagnosis was in children whose disability was on the mild end of the autism spectrum, which often is not recognized until a child starts school and differences in learning style become apparent.
Supporting this finding, the 2012 data also showed that many of the new diagnoses of autism were among children identified at a later age than those from the earlier report.
Although the survey revealed significant increases in ASD reported for all age groups, the increase in prevalence was most dramatic among school-aged boys and in adolescents between 14 and 17 years of age. Generally, boys were found to be four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism.
CDC Researchers Say Increases Reflect Greater Awareness
While government researchers admitted they cannot be certain of the reasons behind the upward trend in numbers of children parents report as having been diagnosed with autism, they concluded that better testing methods, changes in diagnostic services and increased awareness of ASD among parents, educators and health care professionals probably explain the striking rise in autism prevalence.
They suggested that the prenatal period may play a role in risk for developing ASD, claiming that supports the argument that the significant increase in prevalence noted in the 6–13 year age group reflects a change in recognition of the disorder, rather than in a true rise in numbers of children affected with autism in the U.S.
However, looking further back, it has been noted that there has been a 600% increase in diagnosis of autism over the past 20 years, with only a third attributable to better awareness and diagnosis of autism. The other two thirds has been linked by many researchers to genetics and environmental factors impacting on genetic expression.
Can Better Awareness Explain a 72% Increase in Prevalence Over Five years?
The debate over whether the obvious increase in prevalence of autism among children reflects a significant rise in the incidence of the disorder or, as these CDC researchers contend, is a simple indication of improvements in recognition and diagnosis of the disorder has been raging for 25 years. Over that period, one thing is clear: More children have autism than ever before.
Many physicians now acknowledge that development of regressive autism probably has multiple causes and many questions remain about the biology, prevention and treatment of the disorder. Whether the increase in prevalence is due to flawed study methods, improvements in recognition and diagnosis, broad new criteria for definition of ASD, brain inflammation/encephalopathy following vaccination or a domino effect of multiple factors leading to increased incidence of the developmental disorder, this is a public discussion that will and should continue. Read the full report
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