One in 44 (2.3%) eight-year-old children in the USA have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to an analysis of 2018 data newly published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Surveillance Summaries.
This figure is higher than the previous estimate published in March 2020, which found a prevalence of 1 in 54 (1.9%) eight-year-old children. The 2018 data come from 11 communities in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network.
Autism Parenting Magazine comments on the findings
“It is encouraging to see that more children are being identified as being on the autism spectrum as this could mean more access to early intervention. Awareness of autism is increasing year on year, which could mean more parents are spotting the signs and seeking routes to diagnosis and support,” said Emily Ansell Elfer, Editor of Autism Parenting Magazine.
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“The younger a child receives access to services such as therapies and special education, the more likely they are to have a good quality of life and achieve great independence in adulthood.”
Further autism prevalence findings in the report
Breaking the data down further to look at differences between the communities in the ADDM, there is a clear difference in rates from area to area. For example, autism is shown in 1 in 60 (1.7%) children in Missouri, in contrast to 1 in 26 (3.9%) children in California.
Racial differences in diagnosis stats
The data showed that, in many of the ADDM Network communities, fewer Hispanic children were identified with autism than Black or White children. It was also found that a higher percentage of Black children on the spectrum were identified with intellectual disability compared to White or Hispanic children.
It is not known whether these differences relate in part to access to services that diagnose and support autistic children.
Progress in early identification
A second report on children born in 2014 (four-year-old children) in the same 11 communities shows early identification of children with autism is on the rise. These children were 50% more likely to receive a diagnosis or special education classification by 48 months of age compared to children born in 2010.