New CDC Data: As Many as 1 Percent of Kids May Be Autistic

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Babies, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids

Is autism on the rise, or are American doctors better able to diagnose it? Credit: Beverly & Pack, Flickr

The Centers for Disease Control have updated their estimated number of American children with autism: The data now shows that between 1 in 80 and 1 in 240 children have an ASD (autism spectrum disorder). That averages out to one in 110 or about 1 percent.

The 10 communities that participated in a 2006 autism study also had been surveyed in 2002. In the later study, ASD diagnoses increased by 57 percent. It's unclear what might have caused that striking increase.

"No single factor explains the changes in identified ASD prevalence over the time period studied," says the CDC's announcement on the data. "Although some of the increases are due to better detection, a true increase in risk can not be ruled out."


Most of the children identified as autistic had shown developmental problems before the age of 36 months. But the average age of earliest ASD diagnosis was much later -- about 54 months of age. ASD was four to five times more common among boys than girls in this study, with an estimated one in 70 boys and one in 315 girls diagnosed.

The data, collected by CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network in multiple communities throughout the United States, included more than 300,000 participants. That group represents about 8 percent of the U.S. population of 8-year-olds.

"All children in the included study were 8 years of age because previous research has shown that tracking this age helps us get the most complete estimate of who is affected with an ASD," Dr. Christine Rice, the study's lead author, explained in a press briefing held last month to announce the data.

Do you think the incidence of autism is rising , or do you think the numbers are increasing because detection and diagnosis is improving?

Related: Behavioral Training and Management for Autism

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