CDC findings suggest that ASD is more prevalent than indicated by the latest 1 in 59 CDC estimate

Autism Speaks seeks to empower parents and caregivers to seek early screening and intervention for the best future outcomes

NEW YORK (April 11, 2019) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released the findings of a 2019 study on the prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among 4-year-old children in the United States. The data were obtained from the three waves of active surveillance for ASD among 4-year-olds for the years 2010, 2012 and 2014.

The report reinforces the need for awareness of and access to early childhood screening and timely interventions. Children continue to receive comprehensive developmental evaluation at an age considerably later than the recommended screening age of 18 and 24 months. This indicates a need to improve awareness and access to comprehensive developmental evaluations among younger children.

The report also notes lower prevalence of ASD among 4-year-olds compared to 8-year-old children, suggesting that some children with ASD are being diagnosed at a later age. In addition, a higher prevalence of co-occurring intellectual disabilities was found among 4-year-olds compared to 8-year-old children. Together, these findings strongly suggest that ASD is more prevalent than indicated by the latest 1 in 59 CDC estimate.

“The CDC data for 4-year-olds are an important addition to our understanding of autism prevalence. The estimated prevalence of ASD in 4-year-olds is an underestimate, with many children without an intellectual disability being identified later,” said Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Tom Frazier. “These findings suggest that ASD is even more common than indicated by the most recent CDC prevalence report for 8-year-olds. Fortunately, racial and ethnic disparities in diagnosis seem to be closing but the data support the continued push for early screening and access to comprehensive evaluation.”

Closing the diagnosis gap and increasing access to early intervention for all children is a core mission priority of Autism Speaks.

“We’re committed to creating a more inclusive world for people with autism, and that begins with early screening so that all people with autism can live their fullest lives,” added Autism Speaks President and CEO Angela Geiger. “Timely intervention is critical, and we want to help parents learn the signs and receive a diagnosis if necessary. That’s why this April, World Autism Month, we launched a public awareness campaign that aims to empower parents with the tools and resources they need to seek early intervention and help their children reach their full potential.”

Resources and information are available to parents in English at www.ScreenForAutism.org and in Spanish at www.DeteccionDeAutismo.org. Learn more about the campaign here.

Additional takeaways from the CDC report include:

  • Higher prevalence of co-occurring intellectual disabilities among 4-year-olds compared to that among 8-year old children indicates that children with more severe impairments are likely to be identified earlier than those with less severe functional impairments.
  • Relatively small differences in prevalence by race and ethnicity suggest that in younger children, at least for some regions, disparities in screening and diagnosis may be closing.
  • Variations in prevalence were not consistently associated with access to additional data, indicating that improving access to reliable evaluation and diagnostic services can lead to earlier identification of ASD.

For more information and autism resources, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org. For personalized support, contact the Autism Response Team at 1-888-AUTISM2, en Español at 1-888-772-9050 or by email at familyservices@autismspeaks.org

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