The number of American children with developmental disabilities “increased significantly” in recent years, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One in 6 children — or 17.8 percent — had at least one developmental disability in 2017, researchers from the federal agency say in a study published online Thursday in the journal Pediatrics. By comparison, in 2009, that figure was at 16.2 percent.

Investigators from the CDC and the federal Health Resources and Services Administration examined data collected between 2009 and 2017 through the National Health Interview Survey, a routine in-person government poll soliciting information about all types of health matters from individuals across the country. As part of the survey, parents were asked if their children had any one of 10 different developmental disabilities. The data included the experiences of more than 88,000 children ages 3 to 17 across the country.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

They found that the prevalence of autism, intellectual disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder increased during that time while there was a decrease in the percentage of kids in the catch-all category of “other developmental delay.”

Influencing the changes appeared to be increases in prevalence among boys, older kids, white and Hispanic children, those living in urban areas and individuals with less-educated mothers, among other factors. Many of these variances associated with demographics or socioeconomics are likely due to greater awareness or improved access to health care, the study indicated.

In addition, the researchers noted that the National Health Interview Survey questions related to autism and intellectual disability changed somewhat over the course of the time period studied, which may have affected responses.

Nonetheless, the overall increase in the prevalence of developmental disabilities reflects a “significant change,” according to Benjamin Zablotsky, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics who led the study.

“We can certainly say with that significant increase, that means there are more children now in the United States potentially in need of services,” Zablotsky said.