CDC Finds No Change In Autism Prevalence
For the first time in over a decade, new federal autism statistics suggest that prevalence of the developmental disorder is steady.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that 1 in 68 school-age kids across the country are estimated to have autism.
The figure published in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report is consistent with the CDC’s last estimate released two years ago. This marks the first time since 2002 that the agency has released new autism numbers that do not reflect an upward trend.
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The latest numbers come from data collected on 8-year-old children in 2012 through the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which regularly tracks prevalence of such conditions among children in 11 communities by reviewing health and educational records.
It’s too soon to say whether or not autism prevalence is stabilizing, the CDC said.
“What we know for sure is that there are many children living with autism who need services and support, now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood,” said Stuart Shapira, chief medical officer at the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
Though the number of children nationwide who are believed to have autism remained largely unchanged, the CDC report shows prevalence varied significantly among the communities it monitors. These differences were due in part to the types of records available to researchers at different sites, with sites that had access to school records in addition to health records finding more kids with the developmental disorder.
Autism remains more commonly identified among white children as compared to black and Hispanic kids, the CDC said. And the condition is far more prevalent among boys – affecting 1 in 42 – as compared to 1 in 189 girls.
However, the CDC findings suggest that many children with autism are not being identified as early as they could be. Fewer than 43 percent of kids ultimately found to be on the spectrum received developmental evaluations by age 3, the report indicated.
“The most powerful tool we have right now to make a difference in the lives of children with ASD is early identification,” Shapira said. “Parents, childcare professionals and doctors can monitor each child’s development and act right away on any developmental concerns. It’s important to remember that children can be connected to services even before an official diagnosis is made.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all kids are screened for autism at ages 18 and 24 months.