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Utah & New Jersey Have Highest Autism Rate

Utah & New Jersey Have Highest Autism Rate
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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.

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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

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10:49AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

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/

10:48AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

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/

7:55AM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

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?

5:28PM PDT on Apr 1, 2012

Thanks for posting....

2:17AM PDT on Apr 1, 2012

1 in 64 in Arizona.

5:03AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

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.

3:51AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

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.

2:15PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

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

11:30AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

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.

10:30AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

MMR vaccine anyone??

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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