Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Autism in U.S. More Prevalent Than Thought: Latest Data Partly Explained by Better Identification of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Autism in U.S. More Prevalent Than Thought: Latest Data Partly Explained by Better Identification of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Article excerpt

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among children in the United States is now estimated to be 1 child in 150, up from 1 in 166, data from two studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

The CDC now estimates that approximately 560,000 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), said Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, chief of the developmental disabilities branch at the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, in a teleconference with the media. Notably, ASDs were 3-7 times more prevalent in boys than in girls, depending on the collection site.

Meanwhile, a group of researchers has announced that one region on chromosome 11 could be associated with the development of ASDs. These results, released by the Autism Genome Project and based on a study of 1,168 families with at least two members affected by ASD, were published in Nature Genetics (2007 Feb. 18 [Epub doi:10.1038/ng1985]).

The CDC's findings are based on two newly reported studies (MMWR Surveill. Summ. 2007;56:1-11; 12-28). Through its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, a program launched in 2000, CDC clinicians collected records from health care professionals, hospitals, and school districts in six states (Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina, and West Virginia). The records were analyzed to gauge the number of autistic children at each site.

Diagnosis of an ASD, based on the DSM-IV, included autistic disorder; pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified; and Asperger's syndrome. Because the age of 8 years had previously been established as the peak age for autism incidence, only records for 8-year-old children of both sexes were used. The study population was estimated to be 4.5% of the 8-year-old children in those states, said Catherine Rice, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist at the CDC.

In 2002, eight additional states (Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin) were added to the ADDM Network, and a separate report was presented for that study, which comprised children born in 1994 from all 14 states. This study, which sampled about 10% of 8-year-olds in those states, reported that 2,685 (0.66%) of the total 407,578 children had an ASD, Dr. Rice said. In the 2000 study of children born in 1992 in the initial six states, 1,252 children were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The 2002 study found that New Jersey had a higher prevalence of ASD (9.9 per 1,000 children aged 8 years) than any of the five other sites in the initial ADDM Network. West Virginia had the lowest prevalence (5.1 per 1,000). Average prevalence across all sites was 6. …

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