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Autism Spectrum Disorders more common than realized

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April is Autism Awareness Month. New information about autism spectrum disorders is continuously discovered as research continues and research methodology improves. Here is he latest information just released by the CDC.

New data from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to rise, and the picture of ASD in communities has changed. These new data can be used to promote early identification, plan for training and service needs, guide research, and inform policy so that children with ASD and their families get the help they need. CDC will continue tracking the changing number and characteristics of children with ASD, researching what puts children at risk for ASD, and promoting early identification, the most powerful tool we have now for making a difference in the lives of children. Learn the 10 things you need to know about CDC's latest ADDM Network report. You can also read the full report here.

10 Things You Need To Know About CDC's Latest Report from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network

The following estimates are based on information collected from the health and special education records of children who were 8 years old and lived in areas of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin in 2010:

1. About 1 in 68 children (or 14.7 per 1,000 8 year olds) were identified with ASD. It is important to remember that this estimate is based on 8-year-old children living in 11 communities. It does not represent the entire population of children in the United States.

2. This new estimate is roughly 30% higher than the estimate for 2008 (1 in 88), roughly 60% higher than the estimate for 2006 (1 in 110), and roughly 120% higher than the estimates for 2002 and 2000 (1 in 150). We don't know what is causing this increase. Some of it may be due to the way children are identified, diagnosed, and served in their local communities, but exactly how much is unknown.

3. The number of children identified with ASD varied widely by community, from 1 in 175 children in areas of Alabama to 1 in 45 children in areas of New Jersey.

4. Almost half (46%) of children identified with ASD had average or above average intellectual ability (IQ greater than 85).
5. Boys were almost 5 times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls. About 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls were identified with ASD.

6. White children were more likely to be identified with ASD than black or Hispanic children. About 1 in 63 white children, 1 in 81 black children, and 1 in 93 Hispanic children were identified with ASD.

7. Less than half (44%) of children identified with ASD were evaluated for developmental concerns by the time they were 3 years old.

8. Most children identified with ASD were not diagnosed until after age 4, even though children can be diagnosed as early as age 2.

9. Black and Hispanic children identified with ASD were more likely than white children to have intellectual disability. A previous study has shown that children identified with ASD and intellectual disability have a greater number of ASD symptoms and a younger age at first diagnosis. Despite the greater burden of co-occurring intellectual disability among black and Hispanic children with ASD, these new data show that there was no difference among racial and ethnic groups in the age at which children were first diagnosed.

10. About 80% of children identified with ASD either received special education services for autism at school or had an ASD diagnosis from a clinician. This means that the remaining 20% of children identified with ASD had symptoms of ASD documented in their records, but had not yet been classified as having ASD by a community professional in a school or clinic.

Why is this information important and how can it be used?

CDC has been at the forefront of documenting changes in the number of children identified with ASD over the past decade. CDC data have motivated research to understand who is likely to develop ASD, why ASD develops, and how to best support individuals, families, and communities affected by ASD. More is understood about ASD than ever before, including which children are more likely to be identified, at what age they are likely to be diagnosed, and what factors may be putting children at risk for ASD. However, there remains an urgent need to continue the search for answers and provide help to people living with ASD.

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