Posted on April 27, 2018

Uptick of Autism Spectrum Disorder Seen in CDC Network

Molly Walker, MedPage, April 26, 2018

The latest data from the CDC showed an uptick in the number of 8-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder across their Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.


The rise may be due in part to increased identification of autism spectrum disorder in racial and ethnic minority children, the authors wrote in Morbidity and Mortality Report Surveillance Summary.

Overall, 325,483 children age 8 were covered by the 11 sites providing data for 2014, representing 8% of the U.S. population of this age, the authors said — though they noted that the estimates presented in this report cannot be generalized to all 8-year-old children in the U.S., as the 11 sites are not a representative sample of the entire country.

Of these children, source records of 10,886 children met the criteria for abstraction, and 5,743 children met the autism spectrum disorder “surveillance case definition,” the authors noted.

{snip} There were six sites that completed both the 2012 and 2014 studies for the same geographic area, and the authors found that they all showed higher autism spectrum disorder prevalence estimates in 2014 — and when combining data from these sites, prevalence estimates were 20% higher compared with 2012.

Examining demographics, autism prevalence was significantly higher among boys (26.6 per 1,000) compared to girls (6.6 per 1,000).

When examining data by race and ethnicity, autism prevalence among white children was the highest (17.2 per 1,000) — 7% greater than among black children (16.0 per 1,000) and 22% greater than among Hispanic children (14.0 per 1,000), the authors said.

“Autism prevalence among black and Hispanic children is approaching that of white children,” said Stuart Shapira, MD, PhD, of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, in a statement. “The higher number of black and Hispanic children now being identified with autism could be due to more effective outreach in minority communities and increased efforts to have all children screened for autism so they can get the services they need.”


{snip} The authors also noted that 85% of children with autism spectrum disorder had “concerns about their development” in their health records by age 3, but that only 42% of children received a comprehensive developmental evaluation by that age.


Limitations to these findings include that the geographic areas of each of the ADDM Network sites selected do not represent the state as a whole, nor does the network represent the U.S. The authors also cited limitations of available information in child’s health records, and that some information may be subject to recall error.

[Editor’s Note: The complete study with charts is available here.]