U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed in its latest report that there is a 15 per cent increase in prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among 11 surveillance sites from the most recent report two years ago.
The report also points out that the prevalence of ASD is the highest since the CDC began tracking ASD in 2000. ASD is a developmental disorder characterized by social and communication impairments, combined with limited interests and repetitive behaviors. Early diagnosis and intervention are key to improving learning and skills. Rates have been rising since the 1960s, but researchers do not know how much of this rise is due to an increase in actual cases.
There are other factors that may be contributing, such as: increased awareness, screening, diagnostic services, treatment and intervention services, better documentation of ASD behaviors and changes in diagnostic criteria.
For this new report, the CDC collected data at 11 regional monitoring sites that are part of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network in the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The Maryland monitoring site is based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
This is the sixth report by the ADDM Network, which has used the same surveillance methods for more than a decade. Estimated prevalence rates of ASD in the U.S. reported by previous data were:
- one in 68 children in the 2016 report that looked at 2012 data
- one in 68 children in the 2014 report that looked at 2010 data
- one in 88 children in the 2012 report that looked at 2008 data
- one in 110 children in the 2009 report that looked at 2006 data
- one in 150 children in the 2007 report that looked at 2000 and 2002 data
ASD prevalence was reported to be approximately 20 to 30 percent higher among white children as compared with black children in previous ADDM reports. In the current report, the difference has dropped to 7 percent. In addition, approximately 70 percent of children with ASD had borderline, average or above average intellectual ability, a proportion higher than that found in ADDM data prior to 2012.
The causes of autism are not completely understood; studies show that both environment and genetics may play a role. The CDC recommends that parents track their child’s development and act quickly to get their child screened if they have a concern.