CDC: Autism Rates Rise 30 Percent in Past Two Years

One in 68 children in the United States has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This number represents a 30 percent increase from the autism rates reported by the CDC two years ago.

The study

The CDC’s report is based on 2010 data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network, “an active surveillance system in the United states that provides estimates of the prevalence of ASD and other characteristics among children aged 8 years” whose parents or guardians live in Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Utah, and New Jersey. In these states, the prevalence of autism ranged from one in 175 children in Alabama to one in 45 children in New Jersey, according to the report.

Demographic breakdown

The results varied by sex, with one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls identified as having ASD. Non-Hispanic white children were about 30 percent more likely to have ASD than non-Hispanic black children and 50 percent more likely to have ASD than Hispanic children, according to the ADDM Network. Based on data on intellectual ability, 31 percent were classified as having IQs within the range of intellectual disability, 23 percent in the borderline range, and 46 percent in the average or above average range of intellectual ability. These numbers also varied by race/ethnicity, with 48 percent of non-Hispanic black children in the range of intellectual disability, as compared to 38 percent of the study’s Hispanic children  with ASD and 25 percent of the study’s non-Hispanic white children.

Variation in results

The study’s results showed variations over geographic area, sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic disparities in access to services, and regional differences in clinical and school-based practices, according to the ADDM Network. “Because the ADDM Network sites do not provide a representative sample of the entire United States,” said the ADDM Network in its report, “the combined prevalence estimates presented in this report cannot be generalized to all children aged 8 years in the United States population.” However, the CDC notes that other studies conducted have also suggested “a continued upward trend” in the prevalence of ASD.

Recommendations

Based on the results of the study, the ADDM Network recommends enhanced strategies to address the need for “1) standardized, widely adopted measures to document ASD severity and functional limitations associated with ASD diagnosis; 2) improved recognition and documentation of symptoms of ASD, particularly among children without intellectual disability and children in all sex and racial./ethnic strata; and 3) decreasing the age when children are first evaluated for ASD, first receive an ASD diagnosis, and are first enrolled in community-based supports.”