CDC: 1 in 68 US Children Identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder

March 27, 2014
Rachel Lutz

The latest US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report estimated one in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder - an increase of 23% from the 2008 study.

Roughly one in 68 children in the US have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to research published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study also found ASD is nearly 5 times more common in boys than girls.

The study, which was conducted by the Autism Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, reviewed the health records of 9,769 children aged 8 years in 2010, 5,338 of which met the criteria for the ASD surveillance case definition. The overall ASD prevalence for the year was 14.7 per 1,000, or one in 68 children, while the estimated state prevalence was highest in New Jersey (21.9%), Utah (18.6%), and North Carolina (17.3%), and lowest in Alabama (5.7%).

Most notably, ASD prevalence was higher among boys (one in 42) than girls (one in 189). Additionally, greater prevalence was demonstrated among white children (one in 63) than black (one in 81) and Hispanic (one in 93) children; however, black and Hispanic children with ASD were more likely than white children to have an intellectual disability. Nearly half (46%) of children with ASD in the study had an average or above average intellectual ability, defined as an IQ >85.

This study marked a 23% increase in ASD since the ADDM’s last study results, which showed one in 88 children had ASD in 2008.

“This information paints a picture of the magnitude of the condition across our country and helps us understand how communities identify children with autism,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a press release. “That is why HHS and our entire administration has been working hard to improve the lives of people living with autism spectrum disorders and their families by improving research, support, and services.”

The report also showed nearly 80% of children with ASD either received special education services for autism at school or had received an ASD diagnosis from a clinician; the remaining 20% were documented with symptoms of ASD, but had not been identified as having ASD by a community professional in a school or clinic.

“One thing the data tells us with certainty (is) there are more children and families that need help,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, continued in the statement. “We must continue to track ASD because this is the information communities need to guide improvements in services to help children.”

The report urged physicians to talk to parents about monitoring developmental milestones in play, learning, speech, acts, and movement, such as taking a first step, smiling, and waving. For example, the report said parents should be concerned if at 12 months their child does not:

  • Crawl
  • Stand when supported
  • Search for things that the baby sees parents hide
  • Say single words like “mama” or “dada”
  • Learn gestures like waving or shaking head
  • Point to things

A parent might also show concern if a child loses a skill they once had. Other milestone checklists are available for download from the CDC, but they are not a substitute for validated developmental screening tools.