Children living in certain areas are more likely to have developmental disabilities, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and where a child lives significantly impacts how much help they receive.

The report released this week from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found that 19.8 percent of children ages 3 to 17 in rural areas qualified for a developmental disability diagnosis, compared to 17.4 percent of urban kids.

CDC researchers analyzed data on nearly 34,000 kids collected between 2015 and 2018 through the National Health Interview Survey, a routine 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 one or more of 10 different developmental disabilities: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, blindness, cerebral palsy, moderate to profound hearing loss, learning disability, intellectual disability, seizures, stuttering or stammering and other developmental delays.

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The differences were most pronounced for ADHD — which affects 11.4 percent of rural children compared to 9.2 percent of urban dwellers — and cerebral palsy, which impacts 0.5 percent of rural kids versus 0.2 percent of others, according to the study.

Despite the increased prevalence, children with developmental disabilities in rural areas were “significantly less likely to have seen a mental health professional, therapist or had a well-child checkup visit in the past year” compared to those with similar diagnoses residing in cities. Moreover, rural kids were much less likely to receive special education or early intervention services, the report found.

“Additional research exploring questions of unmet need and the accessibility of services and interventions may help to better understand the disparities seen between children with developmental disabilities living in urban and rural areas,” the report authors noted.

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