Expert Commentary

Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders: CDC 2012 report

2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the increasing rate of autism diagnoses across the Unites States.

A 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the number of U.S. children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) at approximately 1 million. This represents a significant increase from estimates just a few years earlier.

The CDC report, “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders: Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States,” uses 2008 data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, covering 337,093 children age 8 years or over in order to map the prevalence rates of ASDs and the characteristics of children diagnosed with an ASD.

The report’s findings include:

  • The overall estimated prevalence of ASDs in 2008 was 11.3 cases per 1,000 children (or 1 in 88 children age 8 or above).
  • The 2008 rate is 23% higher than that recorded in 2006 (9 out of 1,000 children) and 78% more than the 2002 rate (6.4 per 1,000 children).
  • Estimates varied widely by sex and by racial/ethnic group. Approximately 1 in 54 boys (1.85%) and 1 in 252 girls (0.40%) were identified as having ASDs. The prevalence among non-Hispanic white children was estimated at 12.0 per 1,000, significantly greater than among non-Hispanic blacks (10.2 per 1,000 children) and Hispanics (7.9 per 1,000).

The researchers caution that the data may result from external factors such as heightened detection of ASDs: “Increases in awareness and access to services have improved the ability of the ADDM Network to identify children with ASD over time, and this likely contributes to the increase in estimated prevalence.”

Two related 2012 studies published in successive months in the journal Pediatrics provide further insights into the causes and outcomes of children with autism. Six Developmental Trajectories Characterize Children With Autismfinds that there are several heterogeneous trajectories for children on the autism spectrum, with 10% “blooming” into a high functioning state. Another study, “Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders,” demonstrates the link between maternal obesity and diabetes and the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder and child learning abilities.

Tags: medicine, children

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