News & Events

Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2016

Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 4 Years — Early Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, Six Sites, United States, 2016

Autism Prevalence Rises Again in Communities Monitored by CDC
For the eighth consecutive time, CDC finds autism prevalence increased in the United States

One-in-54 8-year-old children have autismording to analysis of 2016 data published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Surveillance Summary.

This is higher than the previous estimate from 2014 that found a 1-in-59 prevalence among 8-year-olds.  The 2016 estimate is 175% higher than baseline estimates established in 2000. The data come from 11 U.S. communities participating in the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.  Data from the investigation also show that more children are being evaluated and identified with autism at younger ages. The latest findings draw on data from two separate reports on eight-year-old and four-year-old children.

“It is surprising that the prevalence of a significant disorder like autism has risen so consistently over a relatively brief period of time,” said Walter Zahorodny Ph.D. (associate professor of Pediatrics at Rutgers--New Jersey Medical School) who directed the New Jersey autism monitoring site. “Changes in awareness, shifts in how children are identified or diagnosed, factors related awareness are relevant, but only take you so far in accounting for an increase of this magnitude.  We don’t know what is driving the surge in autism recorded by the ADDM Network and others.”    

Geographic differences in autism prevalence
Autism prevalence in the 11 communities varied widely, from 1.3% in Colorado to 3.1% in New Jersey.  New Jersey has been the leading indicator of autism prevalence since inception of the Network and the current findings show autism affected 1-in-34 children in New Jersey.  Some of the difference between states’ estimates could be due to how autism is diagnosed and documented or to differences in access to special education services. Also, some ADDM sites, including New Jersey, can review both health and educational records of children, which can lead to more children being identified with autism.

Sex-based differences
Boys were more than four times as likely to be identified with autism as girls.  However, girls identified with autism were more likely to have intellectual disability than boys (39% of girls vs. 32% of boys).  Five percent of 8-year-old (1-in-20) boys in New Jersey were identified with autism.  

Race-based disparities persist
Despite improvements in autism identification of black children, the new report indicates that significant race-based disparities continue.  Most importantly, in most states, Hispanic children are identified with autism at lower rates than black or white children.  Also, black and Hispanic children with autism receive evaluations at older ages than white children. This means black and Hispanic children with autism are not identified at the same rates as white children and may have delayed or limited interventions for autism. 

Improvements in early identification of autism
A separate report published today looking at autism prevalence among 4-year-old children shows improvement in the proportion of children who receive a first developmental screening by the age of 36 months.  According to the authors, 84% of 4-year-olds received a first professional evaluation by 36 months of age, compared to 74% in the previous (2014) report.  This is important because the earlier that children are identified with autism, the sooner they can be connected to services that can improve outcomes and lead to a better quality of life.

ADDM Network
The CDC ADDM Network is a comprehensive autism tracking system that provides estimates of the prevalence and characteristics of autism among more than 325,000 8-year-old children in 11 communities in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.  Data on 4-year-old children come from the Early ADDM Network, which is a subset of communities in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, encompassing over 72,000 4-year-old children in 2016.

The ADDM Network is the largest multi-state population-based system monitoring autism and the only autism tracking system that analyzes health and education records to identify children with autism that have not been diagnosed.  Because the ADDM Network is not a representative sample of the entire United States, the estimates in this report may not be generalizable to all children in the United States.

What can parents do?

These are some good New Jersey contacts for autism help:
https://www.autismnj.org
https://www.nj.gov/dcf/families/csc/Mom2MomBrochure.pdf
https://spanadvocacy.org
https://njace.us

The CDC provides excellent autism information through their Act Early program:
www.cdc.gov/ActEarly


ADDM 2020 MMWR Report

Key ADDM 2020 MMWR Report

Key Early ADDM 2020

NJ 2020 ADDM Community Report Page

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm-community-report/index.html