New Data on Autism: Five Facts to Know from the CDC

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Monday, May 14, 2018

The Scott Center

Findings from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network help us understand more about the number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the features of those children, and the age at which these children are first evaluated and diagnosed. These findings are critical for 1) Promoting early identification of children with ASD; 2) Planning services for children and families living with ASD and trainings for the professionals who provide those services; 3) Guiding future ASD research; and 4) Informing policies that promote improved outcomes in health care and education for individuals with ASD.

Five Facts to Know

  1. The estimated percentage of children with ASD was higher in 2014 than it was in previous ADDM Network reports. About 1.7% or 1 in 59 children were identified with ASD, based on data reported from 11 communities across the United States in 2014. Previous estimates from the ADDM Network ranged from 1 in 150 (or 0.66%) to 1 in 68 (or 1.5%).
  2. The percentage of ASD among black and Hispanic children is approaching the percentage in white children. As in past years, a higher percentage of white children were identified with ASD compared to black children, and even more so compared to Hispanic children. However, these differences are narrowing, which may account for some of the change in percentage since the previous ADDM Network report. This finding could indicate that communities are better able to identify ASD in minority groups. It may also be due to more effective outreach directed to minority communities and efforts to have all children screened for ASD.
  3. Children identified with ASD are not receiving comprehensive developmental evaluations as early as they could be. Most children identified with ASD had concerns about their development noted in their records by age 3 years. Yet, fewer than half of children with ASD received a comprehensive developmental evaluation by this same age. The earlier a child is evaluated for developmental delays, the earlier he or she can be connected to services to address those delays, even if the child has not yet received a diagnosis of autism.
  4. Children identified with ASD also are not being diagnosed as early as they could be. Fewer than half of children identified with ASD received their first diagnosis by age 4 years, yet most had concerns about their development noted in their records before age 3 years. In some communities, many children were diagnosed much earlier. This suggests that regional differences in diagnostic practices and access to services continue.
  5. Recent changes in the diagnostic criteria for autism had little impact on the percentage of school-aged children identified as having ASD by ADDM Network surveillance. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association changed the criteria for making a diagnosis of ASD. Beginning in 2014, the ADDM Network incorporated a new ASD surveillance case definition based on these revised criteria. Estimates of the percentage of children identified with ASD based on the old and new surveillance case definitions were similar, especially among children with an existing ASD diagnosis or eligibility for autism special education services. It may be too soon to determine the long-term impact of the changes in the diagnostic criteria on ASD prevalence and characteristics. CDC will continue to monitor this in the next ADDM Network report.

What Can Concerned Parents Do?

Parents should take two important steps if they suspect their child might have ASD:

Talk to their child’s healthcare provider about their concerns.

Call their local early intervention program or school system for a free evaluation of their child. You can also visit  www. and use the online screening tool. Share you results with your medical provider ASAP.

More info on the results of this study can be found at: