Prevalence of Autism Increases by 15 Percent, to 1 in 59 Children

In late April, the CDC released new data on the prevalence of autism in the U.S.

In late April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) on the prevalence of autism in the U.S. The network identified 1 in 59 children (1 in 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls) as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD), representing a 15 percent increase from previous estimates.

The new estimated rate is based on data collected from 11 communities including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Key Findings

  • An estimated 1.7 percent or 1 in 59 school-aged children were identified with ASD. The prevalence of ASD was higher in 2014 among 8 year olds compared to the last report in 2012, 1.7 percent or 1 in 59 children compared to 1.5 percent or 1 in 68 children.
  • A narrowing of racial and ethnic differences in the identification of ASD may account for some of this change in the prevalence estimate from the previous report. This finding suggests that communities are better able to identify ASD in minority populations.
  • Most children (85 percent) identified with ASD had concerns about their development noted in their records by age 3 years. Yet, less than half (42 percent) of children with ASD received developmental evaluations by age 3. This lag between first concern and first evaluation may affect when children with ASD can begin to get the services they need.

What This Means for Arizona

In Arizona, key findings indicate that 1 in 71 8-year-old children were identified with ASD, whereas the previous Arizona prevalence was reported at 1 in 64 children; this estimate was slightly higher than the average number of children identified with ASD (1 in 68) in all areas of the U.S. where CDC tracks ASD.

“Even though the rates of autism in Arizona seem to have gotten better from the last report, it is important to realize these numbers are only estimates,” says SARRC Vice President & Research Director Christopher Smith, PhD. “Given these rates are only based on 8-year-old children and people continue to get diagnosed with ASD after age 8, it is probably most accurate to consider the rates to be between 1.5 and 2 percent of the population. 

“It is important that SARRC remain vigilant on improving early detection and diagnosis. We need to continue our work to move that needle and get children identified earlier so they have the best opportunity to reach optimal outcomes.”

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Learn More About the Early Intervention Services Available at SARRC

  • Do you suspect autism? Learn about SARRC’s Diagnostics Services Program.
  • Attend Milestones, a free program offering information on developmental milestones for parents of infants ages 6 to 18 month: learn more
  • Attend Family Orientation, which connects parents to current information and resources related to ASD. For more information, visit our online events calendar.