More Children Have Autism Than Previously Thought

Maricruz Casares
May 3, 2018

One in 59 children has autism, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the narrowing gap, minority children with autism are disproportionately affected by intellectual disabilities related to the disorder.

"We're not seeing a decrease in the age of identification and the impact that that has on basically pulling time away from where we could be focusing time on the skills the children need to develop", Daly said.

"Research is so important", Schinner said.

Cincinnati advocates are working to increase funding for autism research after the CDC found the prevalence of the condition is increasing.

The CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network provides the data for the report.

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In the CDC's latest report, the diagnostic gap between white, Hispanic, and black children has shrunk significantly, indicating that more diagnoses are occurring among typically underdiagnosed ethnic populations.

Christensen says, "Over the '80s and '90s, the diagnostic criteria expanded to include more children, so I think that's definitely a possibility for the increase that we've seen". The older a child is diagnosed, the harder it is for health-care professionals to intervene and change the trajectory of autism spectrum disorder. In addition, approximately 70 percent of children with ASD had borderline, average, or above average intellectual ability, a proportion higher than that found in ADDM data prior to 2012. Prevalence estimates in the 11 communities represented in this report ranged widely, from a low of 1.3 percent to a high of 3 percent. 1 in 59 kids is on the autism spectrum, up from 1 in 68 kids.

Some 39 percent of the children in the study who were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder didn't receive such a diagnosis until they were over 4 years of age, said John N. Constantino, a study author and professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Washington University.

Adrienne Christner's 5-year-old daughter, Lilith, is receiving intensive intervention classes at the Oklahoma Autism Center. "That means we're doing a better job of getting those folks diagnosed early on or at some point during their childhood", says Parker.

"Many parents can feel frustrated or confused during those first few years of life as they try to understand why their children are interacting with them a little differently, or interested in things that they might not expect".

"The earlier you start, the better treatments, the better successes that you have", Schinner said.

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