On March 27, 2014, the CDC released new data regarding autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the United States based on a review of records of 8-year-olds (more than 5,300) in certain areas of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin in 2010.
The CDC’s data regarding ASD found that about 1 in 68 children were identified with ASD in 2010, which is about 30% higher than the estimate for 2008 (1 in 88); about 60% higher than the estimate for 2006 (1 in 110); and, about 120% higher than the estimates for 2002 and 2000 (1 in 150).
Here are some of the CDC’s other new findings:
• The number of children identified with ASD varied widely by community (from 1 in 175 children in areas of Alabama to 1 in 45 children in areas of New Jersey).
• 46% of children identified with ASD had average or above average intellectual ability (IQ greater than 85).
• Boys were almost 5 times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls (about 1 in 42 boys compared to 1 in 189 girls).
• White children were more likely to be identified with ASD (about 1 in 63) than black children (about 1 in 81) or Hispanic children (about 1 in 93), although black children and Hispanic children identified with ASD were more likely than white children to have intellectual disability.
• Only 44% of children identified with ASD were evaluated for developmental concerns by the time they were 3 years old.
• Most children identified with ASD were not diagnosed until after age 4, even though children can be diagnosed as early as age 2 (there was no difference among racial and ethnic groups in the age at which children were first diagnosed).
• About 80% of children identified with ASD either received special education services for autism at school or had an ASD diagnosis from a clinician.
The CDC stated the following with regard to the new ASD data: “These new data can be used to promote early identification, plan for training and service needs, guide research, and inform policy so that children with ASD and their families get the help they need. CDC will continue tracking the changing number and characteristics of children with ASD, researching what puts children at risk for ASD, and promoting early identification, the most powerful tool we have now for making a difference in the lives of children.”
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) And How Prevalent Is It?
According to the CDC, ASD is a lifelong developmental disability defined by diagnostic criteria that include deficits in social communication and social interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. Initial signs and symptoms typically are apparent in the early developmental period. However, social deficits and behavioral patterns might not be recognized as symptoms of ASD until a child is unable to meet social, educational, occupational, or other important life stage demands. Functional limitations vary among persons with ASD and might develop over time.
The global prevalence of autism has increased twentyfold to thirtyfold since the earliest epidemiologic studies were conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At that time, prevalence estimates from European studies were one in 2,500 children in the population. By the 2000s, prevalence estimates from large surveys were 1%–2% of all children. Although the underlying reasons for the apparent prevalence changes are difficult to study empirically, select studies suggest that much of the recent prevalence increase is likely attributable to extrinsic factors such as improved awareness and recognition and changes in diagnostic practice or service availability.
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