Newspaper article

Autism Rate among U.S. Kids Is Higher Than Thought, CDC Finds

Newspaper article

Autism Rate among U.S. Kids Is Higher Than Thought, CDC Finds

Article excerpt

The number of children in the United States with autism spectrum disorder is higher than previously thought, according to new data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 children aged 8 years old had autism in 2010. That's about 30 percent higher than the previous estimate of 1 in 88 children, which was based on 2008 data and reported in 2012.

It's less, though, than the 1 in 48 children aged 7 to 9 who were identified in Minneapolis as having autism in a report released last fall by researchers at the University of Minnesota. That figure was also based on 2010 data.

CDC officials caution against interpreting the jump in the prevalence figure as meaning that children are more likely to develop autism today than they were, say, a decade ago. A more probable explanation for the increase, they say, is that pediatricians and others are doing a better job at identifying and diagnosing children with this form of developmental disability.

Wide variations

The data for the CDC numbers comes from 11 different communities across the country, none of which was in Minnesota. All 11 sites participate in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which has been providing estimates of the prevalence of autism among 8-year-old children since 2000.

Health officials collect data on 8-year-olds because most children are diagnosed with autism by that age.

Although the overall prevalence in the latest report was 1 in 68, the estimates varied widely among the 11 sites, from 1 in 45 in New Jersey to 1 in 175 in Alabama.

As in earlier CDC reports, autism was about five times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189). The disorder was also diagnosed much more frequently among white than among black or Hispanic children.

The racial and ethnic differences are probably related "to how children are identified and diagnosed and served within their communities," said Coleen Boyle, director of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Development Disabilities, during a telebriefing session with reporters on Thursday. …

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