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CDC Releases New Data on Autism Prevalence To 1 In 36 Children in U.S., 1 In 36 In Ariz.

Autism Prevalence Through the Years

On March 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) reporting that about 1 in 36 8-year-old children in the U.S. were identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2020. This new rate is up from the reported 2018 prevalence of 1 in 44.

At a Glance: Key Findings

  • Boys were nearly four times as likely to be identified with ASD as girls. However, 2020 marked the first time the ADDM Network found the percentage of girls identified with ASD to be over 1%.
  • For the first time, Black, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander 8-year-old children had a higher percentage of ASD than White children.
  • The median age of ASD diagnosis — the age that falls in the middle of all the ages recorded — is 49 months nationally and 57 months in Arizona.

Christopher J. Smith, Ph.D., SARRC’s chief science officer, shares, “We can reliably diagnose autism in children as young as 14 months, yet we continue to see the median age of diagnosis just under 4.5 years old. Perhaps more alarming is the report shared that 85% of parents or caregivers had concerns about their child’s development noted in their records by age 3, yet only 50% of those children complete a formal evaluation by age 36 months.”

If parents have concerns, they should discuss their child’s development with their pediatrician and request a referral specifically for a developmental evaluation, or they can pursue a developmental evaluation on their own by contacting autism organizations like SARRC. Learn more about early indicators of autism.

Autism Prevalence Increases In Arizona

The Arizona autism prevalence has nearly doubled since 2014, where the rate reported was 1 in 71 8-year-old children compared to 1 in 36 in the surveillance year 2020. And while we haven’t lowered the age of ASD diagnosis, the percentage of children evaluated by 36 months increased from roughly one-third to 50%. That suggests that more children are diagnosed earlier, but we still have work to do.

“The autism prevalence in Arizona tells an interesting story,” shares Dr. Smith. “The new rate of 1 in 36 underscores efforts being made to improve screening and access to diagnostic evaluations, including the pioneering research we’re conducting. But data around the median diagnosis age also tells us we have substantial work to do to ensure providers screen and detect autism early.”

View key findings in Arizona.

“Before this surveillance initiative focused our collective attention on autism, the prevalence was extremely underestimated,” says Dr. Smith. “Since its inception, though, it has most certainly encouraged healthcare professionals and community members alike to better monitor autism in the U.S.”

Dr. Smith shares that trends seen through data collected continue to create awareness and urgency, as well as, add a watchful lens on the significant changes in our healthcare systems like revisions in diagnostic criteria or efforts to improve early detection and screening.

“Surveillance has shown us there is a substantial need within our community for added support, resources and awareness,” says Dr. Smith. “We are committed to improving screening and access to evaluations in our community in an effort to allow families to begin a treatment program sooner to promote optimal outcomes.”

Prevalence rate data are based on 11 sites including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. Sources: ADDM & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more about key findings from the ADDM Network »

Learn more about early intervetion services at SARRC

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Monthly meetings that connect parents to current information and resources related to ASD.

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