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Autism Speaks Responds to New Pediatrics Autism Study Putting Prevalence at 1 in 91 American Children, Including 1 in 58 Boys

New Findings Reinforce the Urgency of Autism as a Major Public Health Crisis, Requiring Intensified Action from the Public and Private Sectors

NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 08, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today responded to a new study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal Pediatrics that found a parent-reported autism prevalence rate of one in every 91 American children, including one in 58 boys. The most recent ASD prevalence estimate reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2007 was approximately one in 150 (including one in 94 boys), making autism the most prevalent childhood developmental disorder. Autism Speaks said the new findings reinforced the fact that autism is an urgent and growing public health crisis that affects most individuals across their lifespan and demands a commensurate level of action from both the public and private sectors.

“There is converging evidence that autism spectrum disorders affect about one percent of the population,” said Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer. “This study further emphasized that autism affects boys at a significantly higher rate. It is imperative that more resources be given to autism research so we can understand the causes and biology of autism and develop more effective treatments.”

“These new numbers should serve as a renewed call to action to take on what is clearly a major public health crisis not only in this country, but around the world,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “People with autism are still not getting the therapies they need and adequate medical care for the medical conditions often associated with this disorder. And our society has yet to come to grips with the fact that this growing population of children with autism will become adults with autism who require a lifetime of services and support. We must act now to address these short and long-term challenges.”

The Prevalence of Parent-Reported Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children in the United States, 2007 used data gathered as part of the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH), a national survey directed and funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 78,000 parents of children aged 3 to 17 years were asked whether their child currently had an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis – including autistic disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), or Asperger's Syndrome – or whether their child had been given that diagnosis in the past, but was no longer diagnosed with ASD.

Autism Speaks continues to work to combat this crisis on multiple fronts. To date, the organization has committed more than $130 million to fund scientific research that will improve our understanding of autism and how to develop more effective treatments. Its awareness efforts include an ongoing public service campaign with the Ad Council, which has already resulted in nearly $200 million in donated media. More than 80 Walk Now for Autism Speaks events across the country each year raise both awareness and funds for research. Autism Speaks Family Services Community Grants provide key support to local organizations across the country that offer critical services to people with autism. Autism Speaks has created tools – including its 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, Autism Video Glossary and Resource Guide – that are helping people with autism and their families deal with the many challenges they face. The organization is working to address the specific needs of adults with autism through initiatives such as its Autism in the Workplace program and its leadership role in the Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism consortium. Autism Speaks is also leading the legislative charge, both at the state level and as part of the current federal health care reform effort, to put an end to discrimination by insurance companies against individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

James M. Perrin, M.D., one of the study's authors, is supported by an Autism Speaks grant and serves as the Director of the Clinical Coordinating Center of the Autism Treatment Network.

About Autism
Autism is a complex biological condition that affects a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. A 2007 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. More recent studies indicate a prevalence of 1% of children are affected by an autism spectrum disorder. The CDC has called autism a national public health crisis for which we still need effective treatments and whose causes need to be better understood.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit

About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation and RAND Corporation and the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Board of Trustees. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is also Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world for their commitment to global autism advocacy.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics has published a Q&A to answer questions in response to the study.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published a statement on autism data.

See media coverage of the autism prevalence numbers.

Share these prevalence numbers with family and friends.