The Latest Autism Facts and Figures

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Scott Center

The Latest Autism Facts and Figures

There are many facts and myths about Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here is the latest information as backed by research and verified reports.

  • In 2018, the CDC determined that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
    - 1 in 37 boys
    - 1 in 151 girls
  • Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. 
  • Most children were still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2.  SCREEN EARLY!
  • Autism affects all ethnic and socio-economic groups.
  • Minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often.
  • Early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across the lifespan.


  • Children born to older parents are at a higher risk for having autism.
  • Research indicates that genetics are involved in a many of cases.
  • Parents who have a child with ASD have a 2% to 18% chance of having a second child who is also affected.
  • Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do NOT cause autism.

Intervention and Supports

  • Early intervention can improve learning, communication and social skills, as well as underlying brain development. 
  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA) and therapies based on its principles are the most researched and commonly used behavioral interventions for autism.
  • Many children affected by autism also benefit from other interventions such as speech and occupational therapy.
  • Developmental regression, or loss of skills, such as language and social interests, affects around 1 in 5 children who will go on to be diagnosed with autism and typically occurs between ages 1 and 3.

Associated Challenges

  • An estimated one-third of people with autism are nonverbal. 
  • Nearly half of those with autism wander or bolt from safety. 
  • Nearly two-thirds of children with autism between the ages of 6 and 15 have been bullied.
  • Nearly 28% of 8-year-olds with ASD have self-injurious behaviors. Head banging, arm biting and skin scratching are among the most common.
  • Drowning remains a leading cause of death for children with autism and accounts for approximately 90% of deaths associated with wandering or bolting by those age 14 and younger.

Associated Medical & Mental Health Conditions

  • Autism can affect the whole body.
  • Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects an estimated 30 to 61 percent of children with autism.
  • More than half of children with autism have one or more chronic sleep problems.
  • Anxiety disorders affect an estimated 11% to 40% of children and teens on the autism spectrum.
  • Depression affects an estimated 7% of children and 26% of adults with autism.
  • Children with autism are nearly eight times more likely to suffer from one or more chronic gastrointestinal disorders than are other children.
  • As many as one-third of people with autism have epilepsy (seizure disorder).
  • Autism-associated health problems extend across the life span – from young children to senior citizens. Nearly a third (32%) of 2 to 5 year olds with autism are overweight and 16% are obese. By contrast, less than a quarter (23%) of 2 to 5 year olds in the general population are overweight and only 10% are medically obese.

Autism In Adulthood

  • Over the next decade, an estimated 500,000 teens (50,000 each year) will enter adulthood and age out of school-based autism services.
  • Teens with autism receive healthcare transition services half as often as those with other special healthcare needs. Young people whose autism is coupled with associated medical problems are even less likely to receive transition support.
  • Many young adults with autism do not receive any healthcare for years after they stop seeing a pediatrician.
  • More than half of young adults with autism remain unemployed and unenrolled in higher education in the two years after high school. This is a lower rate than that of young adults in other disability categories, including learning disabilities, intellectual disability or speech-language impairment.
  • Research demonstrates that job activities that encourage independence reduce autism symptoms and increase daily living skills.

Economic Costs

  • On average, medical expenditures for children and adolescents with ASD are 4.1 to 6.2 times greater than for those without autism.  
  • Passage of the 2014 Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act allows tax-preferred savings accounts for people with disabilities, including autism, to be established by states. 
  • Passage of autism insurance legislation in 48 states is providing access to medical treatment and therapies.

Information and documentation on each of these statistics:

— “Autism and Health: A Special Report” published by Autism Speaks.

— Center for Disease Control (CDC) Updated Prevelance

— National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

If you are looking for more information on screening, diagnosis and treatment, contact The Scott Center for Autism Treatment at