One In 59 U.S. Children Suffers From Autism, Shows New CDC Report

Child autism rates continue to rise in the U.S. but researchers can't tell whether the number of cases has increased or the recognition and diagnosis process has been improved.

The word "autism" written in wooden cubes.
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Child autism rates continue to rise in the U.S. but researchers can't tell whether the number of cases has increased or the recognition and diagnosis process has been improved.

The prevalence of child autism in the United States is higher than previously estimated, revealed a new report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the recent findings, one in every 69 eight-year-old American children is living with an autism spectrum disorder.

This latest survey is based on data collected in 2014 that estimated the number of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) cases among more than 300,000 children from 11 states across the nation, states CNN.

The figures show a raise in autism prevalence rate, which has increased to 1.7 percent compared with the previous estimate of just 1.5 percent (one in 68 children) detailed in the 2016 report, which covered data from 2010.

“For 2014, the overall prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among the 11 (autism monitoring) sites was 16.8 per 1,000 (one in 59) children aged 8 years,” the researchers wrote in the report.

The CDC points out that these numbers are not nationally representative, but simply reflect a detailed look at autism in these specific communities.

The 11 states included in the report are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. In 2014, these states comprised eight percent of all U.S. 8-year-olds, revealed the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

The percentages of autism prevalence among 8-year-olds in each state ranged from 1.3 percent of children in Arkansas to as much as 2.9 percent in New Jersey, NBC News reports.

“With prevalence of autism spectrum disorder reaching nearly 3 percent in some communities and representing an increase of 150 percent since 2000, autism spectrum disorder is an urgent public health concern,” states the report.

According to the ADDM, which monitored the health and special education records in these children, the new figures don’t necessarily reflect a rise in the number of autism cases but could, in fact, be put down to an improvement in recognizing and diagnosing the condition.

The data also revealed an important detail: autism prevalence has increased in Hispanic and black children, for which the figures are now approaching those of white children. This suggests that early diagnosis in these communities has improved since the last report and that more children are eligible to receive health services at an earlier age.

“The higher number of black and Hispanic children now being identified with autism could be due to more effective outreach in minority communities and increased efforts to have all children screened for autism so they can get the services they need,” Stuart Shapira, of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement.

Although this ascertainment is encouraging, the CDC continues to stress the importance of early diagnosis, especially considering that fewer than half of the children in the report were diagnosed before the age of four and despite the possibility to diagnose the condition as early as the age of two.

In addition, the CDC report revealed that even though 85 percent of children identified with ASD had notes in their health records expressing concern about their development, only 42 percent of them received a developmental evaluation by the age of three.

ASD is a developmental disability characterized by problems with communication and social interaction, accompanied by repetitive behavior patterns. According to the latest survey, boys are four times more likely to be identified with autism ASD than girls.