Second Study Corroborates 1 In 40 Autism Rate
For the second time in a week, new data from a national survey suggests that the prevalence of autism in this country is higher than previously thought.
An estimated 2.8 percent of children ages 3 to 17 have ever been diagnosed with autism and 2.5 percent — or 1 in 40 — currently have the developmental disorder, according to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The findings are based on responses from parents of more than 43,000 kids to the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. As part of the survey, parents where asked if a doctor or other health care provider had ever told them that their child had autism. Those who said yes were then asked if the child had a current diagnosis.
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The results largely mirror findings from a government study that was released just last week which also estimated that 1 in 40 American children — or roughly 1.5 million kids — are on the spectrum.
According to the latest study, prevalence varied significantly by state. At the high end, nearly 5 percent of Florida children had ever been diagnosed with autism, according to the survey results, compared to a low of 1.54 percent in Texas.
The study found that nearly a third of those with autism were receiving no treatment at all. Meanwhile, 43 percent participated in behavior therapy and about 7 percent relied on medication exclusively. Roughly 29 percent of kids with a diagnosis received both medication and behavioral interventions.
“This study showed a relatively high prevalence of ASD among U.S. children, which varied substantially across U.S. states. Moreover, almost 30 percent of U.S. children with ASD did not receive behavioral or medication treatment,” concluded Wei Bao, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa, and his colleagues. “Future research and policy efforts are critically needed to understand and address the barriers for children with ASD to receive appropriate treatments.”
One limitation of the study is that it’s based on parent responses, which aren’t always the most reliable, the researchers acknowledged.
By contrast, the government considers numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network — which is based on a review of medical and educational records for thousands of kids at several sites across the country — to be its official estimate of autism prevalence.
As of April, the network reported that 1 in 59 kids in this country are estimated to have autism.