Nearly 15 out of every 1,000 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released March 26. This new estimate represents a 30 percent increase over 2012 estimates.
The CDC report reveals that boys were identified five times more than girls were; white children were more likely to be identified than black or Hispanic children.
The report draws its data from The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, a surveillance system in 11 states created under the Children’s Health Act of 2000. ADDM sites gather data from pediatric health clinics, programs for special needs children, and, at some sites, abstracts of public school special education records.
While not all reporting sites collect data on intellectual ability, among those that do, 50 percent of the identified children had average or above average intelligence defined as an IQ of 85 or greater.
Autism spectrum disorder is defined by diagnostic criteria, which includes difficulties with social interactions and communication and repetitive patterns of behavior. While ASD can be identified as early as age two, children often are not diagnosed until they reach school age when social deficits are most noticeable.
The prevalence of ASD is increasing worldwide, according to the CDC. Global studies conducted in the late 60s and early 70s identified one in 2,500 with the disorder. The increase may be partially attributed to more awareness of ASD and changes in how the disorder is diagnosed.
The CDC encourages parents to speak with their child’s doctor if they have concerns. Under the Affordable Care Act, health plans must cover autism screenings with no copayments, coinsurance or deductibles. Families without health insurance may be eligible for financial assistance when enrolling in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
The CDC offers a milestones checklist that allows parents to check their child’s developmental progress.