School & District Management

Autism Prevalence Stable, But Varies Widely Among Communities, Groups

By Christina A. Samuels — April 04, 2016 1 min read
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An estimated 1 in 68 8-year-olds have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the same prevalence rate that the agency found when it released a autism monitoring report in 2014.

The most recent report is based on data that was collected in 2012. The 2014 report, which had the same prevalence rate, was based on data that had been collected four years earlier.

The CDC says it’s too soon to say whether this latest report reflects a plateau in autism diagnoses, which until now had been on the rise ever since the agency started tracking numbers in 2007. The autism rate at the time of that first report was 1 in 150 children.

But while the overall autism diagnosis rate remained the same, researchers saw wide disparities among the 11 surveillance sites that they monitor. For example, in parts of South Carolina 1 in 81 children were diagnosed with autism, compared to 1 in 41 in areas of New Jersey.

South Carolina and New Jersey are both among the monitored areas that allow researchers to examine both health records and school records to derive an autism rate. Some surveillance areas only allowed researchers to look at health records, and those areas showed a much lower rate of autism than the areas where the CDC had access to more complete records—suggesting that schools play an important role in diagnosing children with autism spectrum disorder and getting them treatment.

The statistics also showed that black and Latino children are diagnosed with autism less frequently
than white children, and that boys are diagnosed far more frequently than girls.

“What we know for sure is that there are many children living with autism who need services and support, now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood,” said Dr. Stuart K. Shapira, the chief medical officer for CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, in a statement.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.