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Leading autism organization's statements on new prevalence report

New government report pegs autism prevalence at 1 in 45; autism organizations emphasize need for services
November 13, 2015

Autism Speaks Statement on National Health Interview Survey

New government report pegs autism prevalence at 1 in 45

A new government survey of parents suggests that 1 in 45 children, ages 3 through 17, have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is notably higher than the official government estimate of 1 in 68 American children with autism, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Because the new numbers come from a parent survey, they do not replace the CDC’s 1-in-68 figure as the official estimate of autism prevalence in the United States. 

However, “the 1 in 45 estimate is not surprising and is likely a more accurate representation of autism prevalence in the United States," comments epidemiologist Michael Rosanoff, Autism Speaks director for public health research. "This means that 2 percent of children in the U.S. are living with autism. The earlier they have access to care, services and treatment, the more likely they are to progress."

"We need to better understand not only who has autism," Rosanoff concludes, "but whether they are receiving the support they need and how we can ensure that they do receive it."

Autism Society Statement on CDC Report

The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released the results of a new parent survey announcing an autism prevalence rate of 1 in 45. The new numbers are higher than 1 in 68, but does not replace the official estimate of CDC released in March 2014. Researchers surveyed over 12,000 parents about health conditions, functional limitations, and health care access and utilization. Parents were asked if a health profession had ever diagnosed their child with a form of autism and nearly 2 percent said yes. Researchers estimate that to be to 1 in 45.

“Regardless of prevalence rates, we need to focus on ensuring all individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have access to much needed services and supports, because behind every number is someone who needs help today,” said Scott Badesch, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America. The Autism Society and our nationwide network of affiliates continue to be concerned with the increasing number of services needed to support families and individuals with ASD. We need to assure people with autism can obtain employment, appropriate housing and the ability to pursue goals and aspirations of their choosing.

Far too many unnecessary obstacles are placed in the path of many individuals living with ASD, especially adults. Services and supports are not available and accessible to all who need them. Families spend years at a time attempting to secure even the most basic of services to maximize the quality of life for loved ones. Waiting lists for services are long. How do we fix it? That's where we need to focus our attention. At the end of the day, all that matters is people with an autism diagnosis are afforded the basic right to maximize his or her quality of life and live in a world where they are always respected, valued and assured the highest dignity. The Autism Society remains committed to improving the quality of life of those with autism across the entire lifespan.