Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years:
Report of the New Jersey Autism Study, 2014
Since 2000, New Jersey has been part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network -- the only comprehensive US autism monitoring system. The ADDM Network uses standard ASD definitions and rigorous, consistent, ascertainment methods and procedures to monitor the expression and prevalence of ASD in defined cohorts of children across US regions.
For 2014, using the comprehensive, population-based, active ascertainment method, ASD prevalence in metropolitan New Jersey was estimated to be 29.3 per 1,000 (one in 34) children aged 8 years. ASD prevalence in New Jersey was significantly higher than in each of the ADDM Network sites surveying a consistent geographic region (p<0.01). Higher ASD rates in New Jersey are likely related to more complete ASD ascertainment, and factors related to higher quality, more detailed and elaborate information in education and health evaluations in New Jersey. Factors related to socioeconomic status and urbanicity may also be contributing to higher ASD prevalence in New Jersey.
Among the six ADDM Network sites completing 2012 and 2014 activities in the same geographic region, all showed higher ASD prevalence for 2014, compared to 2012. Between 2012 and 2014, ASD prevalence increased significantly (19%) across race and ethnicity, in New Jersey.
Between 2000 and 2014, while maintaining the same ASD definitions and case finding procedures, autism prevalence increased from approximately 10 to 30 per 1,000 (200%) in New Jersey. The reasons for increasing ASD prevalence in New Jersey and across the US are unknown, but may involve underlying change in environmental risks or triggers and better awareness of ASD.
New Jersey boys are 3.7 times more likely have ASD than girls, similar to other ADDM sites. Overall male ASD prevalence is 45.5 per 1,000 (CI: 42.4-48.9) or 4.5 percent. In New Jersey, in 2014, there was no significant difference in ASD prevalence based on race/ethnicity. That is, white (30 per 1,000), black (27 per 1,000) and Hispanic (29 per 1,000) children are equally to have an ASD.
With ASD prevalence reaching 3% among children in New Jersey and with ASD prevalence increasing 200% since 2000, ASD is an urgent public health concern which requires a concerted scientific and public health effort to 1) enhance early detection of ASD, 2) identify environmental risk factors or ASD triggers and 3) develop greater resources to meet the growing needs of children, adolescents and adults with autism.
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