On April 26th, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 1 in 59 children in the United States live with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This is an increase from the 2016 report that shared 1 in 68 children live with autism, or 1.5% compared to today’s 1.7%.
According to a “Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism” article written by Shannon Des Roches Rosa, this increased number could be linked to positive strides in the autism community where others, not diagnosed or not living with autism have an increased awareness and understanding of autism. Since parents and caregivers have been educated on the signs of autism, they are better able to detect these signs in their children and know when to seek a diagnosis. More children are being diagnosed with autism simply because parents are better educated. This in part comes from more news and education involving autism.
In a CNN article, Daisy Christensen, co-author of the new report and surveillance team lead in the developmental disabilities branch of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said “Parents know their child best, We want to encourage parents to be aware of their child’s development, to be aware of the milestones that children achieve. By tracking milestones, parents can report any concerns to a health care provider, who will refer the child for a comprehensive development evaluation so that any delays or impairments can be identified and that child can be connected with services”.
The new data made available on April 26, 2018, comes from 11 communities across the United States in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin. In an article from CNN, Christensen mentioned the New Jersey community had the highest autism prevalence at 2.9%.
Christensen mentioned the possibility that the broader definition of autism could have led to an increase in autism diagnoses. Christensen said “In the past, more than half of children identified with autism also had intellectual disability, and now it’s about a third, and that’s really consistent with identifying children who are perhaps at the milder end of the spectrum”.
The differences between ethnicities is beginning to decrease. According to Christensen, “In 2012, for example, the prevalence was about 20% higher in white children than in black children, and now it’s about 10% higher; it was 50% higher in white children compared with Hispanic children, and now it is 20% higher”. Christensen said there are no biological reasons for the prevalence to vary by race or ethnicity. In later reports, the difference was said to be caused by the less likelihood of identifying autism signs.
It is important to recognize the increase in autism diagnoses. It is equally important to continue raising awareness. The American Autism Association hosts events like pub crawls, open mic nights and painting events to raise awareness amongst individuals in the autism community and others that may not be as aware. The American Autism Association also runs a 24 hour hotline that allows callers to voice their concerns, ask for help and be given support when needed. The American Autism Association strives to help families and individuals affected by autism while raising awareness.