Autism Prevalence at 1 in 50 for School-Age Children

Autism Prevalence at 1 in 50 for School-Age Children

There are as many as one in 50 school age children in the U.S. diagnosed with autism, according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a 72 percent increase from 2007. However, researchers attribute the rise to improved detection of autism symptoms by doctors, not more cases.

A telephone survey conducted among 100,000 parents revealed that an estimated 2 percent of children ages 6 to 17 have autism (1 in 50), up from 1.16 percent in 2007, when the study was first conducted. Researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say that this figure translates to 1 million school age children ages 6 to 17 that were reported by their parents to have autism spectrum disorder. Similar to prior studies, boys were much more likely to have the disorder, comprising nearly all of the overall increase in diagnoses. According to the survey, boys were more than 4 times as likely as girls to be affected by autism, which is generally characterized by difficulty in communication, behavior, and social interaction.

The new findings have markedly increased from just last year, in which data released by the CDC showed 1 in 88 children with autism. Last year’s study involved a review of medical and educational records of 8 year olds in 14 sites around the country. However, data in those records were last collected in 2008, so those results would not differ greatly from the original study done in 2007, which reflected a 1 in 86 figure.

The rise in diagnosed cases points to improvements in the detection of the disorder—symptoms of autism can be seen in children as young as 18 months, and doctors are now encouraged to screen children for developmental delays by age 2. However, the symptoms of mildly affected children often go unnoticed until the child enters school, when difficulties with social interaction become apparent. While the study shows that detection is improving, it still points to the need for earlier diagnosis and intervention.

Read the full report from The National Center for Health Statistics:


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