Utah & New Jersey Have Highest Autism Rate

 

1 in 88 children in the US are on the autism spectrum according to a new report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the CDC report is available in PDF format. The previous figure from 2006 was in 1 in 110: Rates for children with an autism spectrum disorder have increased 23 percent from 2006 to 2008 and 78 percent as compared to a decade ago.

The prevalence rate differs in different parts of the US. While the overall estimated ASD  prevalence rate is 11.3 per 1,000 (one in 88) children aged 8 years, the rate is much lower in Alabama (4.8 per 1,000). Utah has the highest estimated autism prevalence (21.2 per 1,000) and  New Jersey where I live the second highest (20.5 per 1,000).

Gender, Race and Ethnicity and ASD Prevalence

Autism is more prevalent in boys than in girls and that CDC’s new report reflects this. Approximately one in 54 boys (18.4 per 1,000) and one in 252 girls (4 per 1,000) in the areas surveyed by the CDC were found to have an ASD diagnosis.

In addition, ASD prevalence estimates also vary widely by sex and by racial/ethnic group. The estimated prevalence among non-Hispanic white children (12.0 per 1,000) is much larger than among non-Hispanic black children (10.2 per 1,000) and Hispanic children (7.9 per 1,000). The ASD prevalence rate is the same for  non-Hispanic white children, non-Hispanic black children, and Hispanic children only in New Jersey. Overall, the largest increases in ASD diagnoses are among black and Hispanic children.

Estimates for the ASD rate among Asian/Pacific Islander children ranged greatly, from 2.2 to 19.0 per 1,000; the CDC notes that “wide confidence intervals suggest that these findings should be interpreted with caution.”

Why the Increase?

The reason for such a significant increase in ASD prevalence remains uncertain. While many may be first inclined to think that there be some thing, such as an environmental agent, it is also necessary to keep in mind how much the DSM criteria for an autism spectrum diagnosis have changed (and are still changing) and how much more public understanding there is about autism today than thirteen years ago when my teenage son was diagnosed with autism. Educators, doctors and parents are much more able to detect what might be symptoms of autism in younger children, though the CDC report notes that the average age of diagnosis is 4 or 5 years old: More can be done to identify young children on the autism spectrum.

Some groups, such as the New York-based Autism Speaks, have declared that the new CDC figures show that autism is a “national emergency” and an “epidemic.”

I’ve Seen My Son Go From Having a “Rare Disease” to a “Commonly Prevalent” One

As a mother who was told back in 1999 that her toddler had an “incredibly rare disease,” the increased public understanding has made life better for my son Charlie and our family. With more children with an ASD diagnosis, school districts have created more programs that teach autistic children in more appropriate ways and with specially-trained staff; researchers have undertaken studies to understand autism’s causes and develop medications to address neurological functioning. Charlie, who would probably have been institutionalized by now had he lived in a previous generation, is a lovable teenager who lives at home, rides his bikes for miles every day and loves his school, which teaches him essential vocational and life skills.

ASDs are lifelong diagnoses and, amid the cries for figuring out why so many more children now receive an ASD diagnosis, we need to keep in sight the urgent need for more programs and services for individuals of all ages and especially adults. The new CDC figures are still considerably lower than the 1 in 38 prevalence rate found by researchers in a study of school children in South Korea, an indication that the CDC’s figures for the autism rate could increase again. There are more individuals diagnosed with ASDs and, while seeking to understand why this is now the case, we need to do everything we can to provide them with supports and services, to help them achieve their full potential.

Happy trails

 

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Photo of the author's son in 1999, around the time when he was diagnosed with autism.

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15 comments

Heather H.
Heather H.3 years ago

As a child psychologist, I certainly understand the concerns with overdiagnosis. However, one of the things that so often times gets overlooked in these discussion is that in order for a child to receive treatment by their insurance or within the schools, they must have a diagnosis. Otherwise, the parents are the ones who end up paying out of pocket. Although the system is faulty, the intentions of the system are good. Check out my recent thoughts here in answering the question: Do we over diagnose children?

http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/04/11/are-we-over-diagnosing-our-children/

Heather H.
Heather H.3 years ago

As a child psychologist, I certainly understand the concerns with overdiagnosis. However, one of the things that so often times gets overlooked in these discussion is that in order for a child to receive treatment by their insurance or within the schools, they must have a diagnosis. Otherwise, the parents are the ones who end up paying out of pocket. Although the system is faulty, the intentions of the system are good. Check out my recent thoughts here in answering the question: Do we over diagnose children?

http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/04/11/are-we-over-diagnosing-our-children/

J.L. A.
JL A.3 years ago

When geographic discrepancies in prevalence were found in the late 1990's, it led to research seeking reason(s) for the differences (e.g., environmental contaminants, etc.). Anyone going to look to see why Utah and New Jersey are so much higher?

Dee D.
D D.3 years ago

Thanks for posting....

Doris Turner
Doris Turner3 years ago

1 in 64 in Arizona.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers3 years ago

Artificial foodstuffs additives, soda drinks, colourings, all these things accumulate in the mothers bodies and are passed to their children, someone please do a study on what these mothers have ingested prior (years) to these children's births.

Thomas Petersen
Thomas Petersen3 years ago

My son has an ASD and I believe it has to do with DNA. He has a deletion, a piece missing, from one of his chromosomes. He probably inherited it from one of his birth parents, but neither bio-parent will have a blood test to find out if this is the case. There is also the possibility the genes mutated on their own, which could have been caused by anything - the point is, my son was born with this, it's not from a vaccine. As soon as his little life began in the womb, his DNA already had this aspect of his life mapped out.

Troy G.
Troy Grant3 years ago

I found the cure for autism...and cancer too --- don't pollute.

Kris Allen
Kris Allen3 years ago

What I fear is that, absent an obvious cause, we might just dismiss the increase in ASD as a result of greater diagnostic work. What if the cause is complex and pervasive? Do we have the will to fund enough research to solve this mystery? Then, do we have the will to make massive and systematic changes in our environment to stop this?

Let South Korea's statistics be a warning. Don't just assume it is greater reporting.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons3 years ago

MMR vaccine anyone??