With autism prevalence continuing to rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it will monitor the number of children with the developmental disability in more communities across the nation.

The federal agency is adding five new sites to its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring, or ADDM, Network this spring, bringing the total to 16. Researchers with the network regularly comb through health and education records for children in their communities at certain ages to assess how many are on the spectrum. The CDC relies on these findings to estimate how pervasive the developmental disability is.

Traditionally, the network has kept tabs on the situation among 8-year-olds and all sites will continue to look at that age group as well as 4-year-olds. Nine sites will also collect information about transition planning and co-occurring conditions among 16-year-olds with autism, the CDC said.

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Tracking prevalence in more geographic areas will provide a better picture of what’s going on nationally, according to Matt Maenner, an epidemiologist and chief of the Child Development and Disability Branch at the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“ADDM data have consistently shown striking differences between communities in the number of children identified with autism, the age at which they are identified and how they are served,” Maenner said. “Collecting data from more states helps us better understand the needs of children with autism and their families in a diverse group of communities.”

The most recent findings from the CDC’s ADDM show that 1 in 36 children have autism. That figure, which is based on data from 8-year-olds in 2020, was released in March. By comparison, 1 in 150 kids were estimated to be on the spectrum in 2000.

With the newly added sites, data collection will occur in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Indianapolis; Laredo, Texas; Little Rock, Ark.; Madison, Wis.; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; San Diego; St. Louis; and Puerto Rico.

Researchers are currently examining records from 2022. Findings are expected to be released in 2024.

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