The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released its biennial update of autism’s estimated prevalence among the nation’s children, based on an analysis of 2014 medical records and, where available, educational records of 8-year-old children from 11 monitoring sites across the United States.
The new estimate represents a 15 percent increase in prevalence nationally: to 1 in 59 children, from 1 in 68 two years previous.
Key findings of the new report include:
* Nationally, 1 in 59 children had a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by age 8 in 2014, a 15 percent increase over 2012.
* But estimated rates varied, with a high of 1 in 34 in New Jersey (a 20 percent increase), where researchers had better access to education records. On the low side, autism’s estimated prevalence in Arkansas was just 1 in 77. “This suggests that the new national prevalence estimate of 1 in 59 still reflects a significant undercount of autism’s true prevalence among our children,” says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Thomas Frazier. “And without more and better research, we can’t know how much higher it really is.”
* The gender gap in autism has decreased. While boys were 4 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls (1 in 37 versus 1 in 151) in 2014, the difference was narrower than in 2012, when boys were 4.5 times more frequently diagnosed than girls. This appears to reflect improved identification of autism in girls – many of whom do not fit the stereotypical picture of autism seen in boys.