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Latest Figures: One in 50 U.S. Children Has Autism

Autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs, affect 1 in 50 American children, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The newest statistics are markedly higher than the CDC’s previous report on the disorder, which last year put prevalence at 1 in 88 children. However, these figures can’t be compared, the CDC says.

“These reports use different methods to answer different questions about autism,” said CDC representatives. “Both reports help paint a more complete picture of autism in our nation.”

The recent report stems from the agency’s 2011 National Survey of Children’s Health, conducted with parents of children between the ages of 6 and 17.

The previous report, and the one that the CDC considers its official data set, comes from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.  This prior information came from the health and special education records from 14 U.S. communities to estimate the number of affected 8-year-olds (the age by which most children with an ASD have been diagnosed).

In either case, the numbers reveal skyrocketing reports of these disorders among children, with boys four times as likely as girls to be diagnosed.

Some of these cases may reflect a better understanding of the disorder and, therefore, more diagnoses.

However, “a true increase in the number of people with an ASD cannot be ruled out,” says the CDC on its website.

Michael Rosanoff, M.P.H., epidemiologist and associate director for public health research at Autism Speaks, wasn’t surprised by the report. Although there is better detection, “at least half of the increase in prevalence is unexplained,” he said.

“We’re underestimating the magnitude of this public health challenge.”

Access to an early intervention program like the Early Start Denver Model can bolster intellectual ability and social behaviors, said Rosanoff. But services are needed throughout the lifespan and some can be provided by parents, he said.

For Scott Badesch, president and CEO of the Autism Society, a grassroots advocacy group, it’s good to know the statistics; it’s better to do something about it since services are in high demand and short supply.

People with disabilities may wait up to 10 years for services that can teach them critical life skills.  He added that 70 percent of disabled people of working age are unemployed.

“We are denying as a nation a significant number of people the opportunity to enjoy life to the fullest,” he said.

Source:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Autistic boy photo by shutterstock.

Latest Figures: One in 50 U.S. Children Has Autism

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Latest Figures: One in 50 U.S. Children Has Autism. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 30 Mar 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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