Autism Treatment: Some Kids Miss Out

by Karen Gaudette Brewer Contributing Editor

As many as one third of U.S. children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) don’t get behavioral or medication treatment to help them manage their neurodevelopmental challenges. Researchers at the University of Iowa School of Public Health, whose study appears in JAMA Pediatrics, suggest that there’s a critical need to understand barriers to getting these kids the help they need to adapt and thrive.

The researchers analyzed data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, which also show the prevalence of autism in the United States is relatively high. Of 43,032 children ages 3 to 17 on whom they had data, nearly 3 percent had ever been diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder. Of the 1,115 with autism:

  • 43.3 percent received behavioral treatment only

  • 6.9 percent — medication treatment only

  • 20.3 percent — both

  • nearly 30 percent — neither

The Iowa researchers also found that the frequency of ASD diagnoses varied by state, with the highest prevalence (4.88 percent) in Florida and the lowest (1.54 percent) in Texas, though they’re not sure why. Reported incidence of autism continues to grow in developed nations around the world. Though symptoms can lessen over time with treatment, many children need long-term, ongoing care.

Source: JAMA Pediatrics

Karen Gaudette Brewer
Meet Our Writer
Karen Gaudette Brewer

Karen Gaudette Brewer is an author and longtime journalist with an extensive background in public policy, government, food, and wellness. She's the Executive Editor emeritus of HealthCentral following staff roles at, The Seattle Times, and The Associated Press. She's honored to help illuminate the daily experiences of those who live with invisible illnesses to increase understanding and ease stigma.