CDC estimates 1 in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder

April 5, 2012

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) now affect 1 in 88 children in the United States and are almost 5 times more common among boys than girls, according to estimates based on a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. Why are the numbers growing?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) now affect 1 in 88 children in the United States and are almost 5 times more common among boys than girls, according to estimates based on a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

Data from surveillance year 2008 for 38,000 children in 14 US communities identified 11.3 per 1,000 8-year-old children as having an ASD, an increase of 23% from the last report published in 2009 based on the 2006 surveillance year (9.0 per 1,000 children aged 8 years in 2006) and an estimated 78% increase when 2008 data are compared with data for 2002 (6.4 per 1,000 children aged 8 years in 2002). Some of the increase can be attributed to the ways in which children are identified, diagnosed, and served in these communities, said the CDC, but how much increase is because of these factors is unknown.

Overall estimated prevalence of ASD varied widely by sex and by racial or ethnic group, with approximately 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls living in the 14 communities being identified as having ASDs. The estimated prevalence among non-Hispanic white children (12.0 per 1,000) was significantly greater than non-Hispanic black children (10.2 per 1,000) and Hispanic children (7.9 per 1,000), but the largest increases were among Hispanic and black children.

The proportion of children with early diagnosis of ASD by 3 years also increased over time; however, data indicate that many children with ASDs are not diagnosed until they reach preschool or kindergarten, missing early intervention therapies that could improve their communication and socialization skills.

The ADDM has completed 5 surveillance years for ASD. Data collection for children who were aged 8 years in 2010, and for the first time among children aged 4 years, is under way.

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