1 in 50 Schoolchildren Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Based on information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 50 school aged children (between the ages of 6 and 17) has some form of autism. Previous estimates put this number at 1 in 86 school age children were diagnosed with ASD.


    Between February 2011 and June 2012, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics completed 95,677 interviews with parents of children around the country. Parents of children with autism were asked about the age of the child at the time of diagnosis by a medical professional, the year of the diagnosis and the severity of ASD symptoms.

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    Based on these interviews, prevalence rates for autism were estimated to be 2 percent, or one in every 50 school age children. The previous survey was contact in 2007 and showed a prevalence rate of 1.16 percent, or 1 in every 86 school aged children. The biggest increase was seen in children between the ages of 14 and 17. Boys were found to be four times more likely to have autism than girls. The study also indicated that the rise in prevalence was due to new diagnoses, especially in children between the ages of 14 to 17. Almost all of these children had mild autism.  [1]


    Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a neurologist at Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, OH. isn’t convinced that autism rates grew that much. In an article on CNN, Dr. Wiznitzer stated, “If your child has a problem, you’re just more likely to respond…that’s common sense…I am concerned that this report will be interpreted as a true rise in the prevalence of autism, when all we’re talking about is a label that has been given at sometime in a child’s life, with no knowledge of who gave the label, their experience in assessing children with autism and the reason behind the label.” [2]


    But Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group, believes that this report shows that ASD is underdiagnosed. Michael Rosanoff, associate director for Public Health Research and Scientific Review at Autism Speaks believes ASD is even more common than one in 50 children. [3]


    Children with milder forms of autism may not be diagnosed until later when social deficits become more noticeable. The authors of the study also believe that better recognition of mild symptoms by medical providers also plays a role, “These findings suggest that the increase in prevalence…may have resulted from improved ascertainment of ASD by doctors and other health care professionals in recent years, especially when the symptoms are mild. Changes in the ascertainment of ASD could occur because of changes in ASD awareness in parents or health care professionals, increased access to diagnostic services, changes in how screening tests or diagnostic criteria are used or increased special education placements in the community.” [4]


    Children with milder forms of autism may do well in the classroom but have a hard time navigating social situations as they get older. This impacts not only their relationships, but their ability to get and maintain a job. Better tools for diagnosis and better recognition of mild autism can help these children receive services that will provide them with a better chance at success in life.


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    [2] “CDC: Higher Number of Children with Autism,” 2013, March 20, Miriam Falco, CNN Health


    [1] [4] “Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged Children: 2007 to 2011-2012,” 2013, March, Stephen J. Blumberg, Ph.D. et al, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


    [3] “One in 50 School-Aged Children in U.S. Has Autism: CDC,” 2013, March 20, Steven Reinberg, U.S. News and World Report

Published On: March 25, 2013