New Study Estimates 1 in 50 School-Age Children Have Autism

One in 50 school-age children have been diagnosed with autism, according to a new study published this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This figure is a marked increase from last year’s report released by the CDC, which cited a figure of 1 in 88. However, researchers attribute improvements in earlier detection of the disorder for the dramatic rise—not necessarily more cases. Often symptoms of mildly affected children go unnoticed until the child enters school, when challenges with social interaction, communication, and behavior among peers become evident.

While these new findings show strides in making earlier diagnoses of the disorder, for many families, intervention needs to happen much sooner, instead of observing signs and symptoms when a child enters an educational facility. Symptoms can be seen in children as early as 18 months, and doctors are now encouraged to screen children for developmental delays by age 2.

Results were assembled from a telephone survey conducted among 100,000 parents, revealing that an estimated 2 percent of children ages 6 to 17 have autism (1 in 50), up from 1.16 percent in 2007, when the study was first conducted. Researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say that this figure translates to 1 million school age children ages 6 to 17 that were reported by their parents to have autism spectrum disorder. Similar to prior studies, boys were much more likely to have the disorder, comprising nearly all of the overall increase in diagnoses.

The finding emphasizes the importance of early screening for developmental delays, in order to undertake early intervention and treatment.

Read the full report from The National Center for Health Statistics: