Autism Awareness Month started on April 1st, making this a good time to update information relevant to the Autism community. On March 27, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the new figures for autism prevalence in the United States, which is something they have been doing on a biennial basis since they began tracing the prevalence of autism in 2000 through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. Since that time, the prevalence rate has consistently gone up. Based on the data they have analyzed most recently, which covers 2016, the number of eight-year-old children diagnosed is now 1 in 54; prior to that, the rate was 1 in 59. It is important to keep in mind that these figures are based on the prevalence of ASD among children aged 8 years who live in one of 11 ADDM Network sites in the US; those states are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The 1 in 54 figure is average, because the rates vary somewhat from state to state, from 1 in 76 in Colorado to 1 in 32 in New Jersey. Consistent with findings in previous years, the CDC report indicates that boys are identified at higher rate than girls, specifically 4.3 times higher in boys than girls. Other notable facts from the CDC report:
• For the first time, no statistically significant difference found in overall prevalence among black and white children
• Hispanic children with ASD continue to be identified at lower rates compared to white or black children
• Black and Hispanic children with ASD were evaluated at older ages than white children and were more likely to have intellectual disability
• Black children with intellectual disability and ASD also received diagnoses at older ages than did white children with intellectual disability and ASD
The CDC recommends two important steps for parents if they suspect their child might have ASD:
1. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about their concerns.
2. Call your local early Intervention program or school system for a free evaluation of your child.
For additional information about the new CDC report and statistical analysis, see the CDC website at CDC WEBSITE.
The CDC offers a free Milestone Tracker app which parents can download in either English or Spanish from the App Store or from Google Play, and which makes it easy for parents to track their child’s development from the ages of 2 months through 5 years and compare it to expected developmental norms.
For more tips on what parents and others can do when there is a concern for delayed or atypical development, visit https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/concerned.