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CDC Expands National Autism Monitoring to Include Preschoolers

National autism monitoring network will look for advances in early diagnosis, with special attention to new criteria for diagnosis
January 05, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is expanding its national autism monitoring to include preschoolers. It will continue monitoring rates among grade-schoolers, with a focus on possible changes resulting from the recent overhaul of the criteria used to diagnose the disorder.

Since 2002, the CDC has been monitoring autism prevalence among the nation’s 8-year-olds, with the presumption that most affected children are identified by this age. Over the next four years, the CDC aims to produce the first clear estimate of autism diagnosis and services among 4-year-olds.

Autism can be reliably diagnosed by age 2. However, the average age of diagnosis in the United States remained stalled at 4.5 years, as of last year’s CDC estimate. The age of diagnosis tends to be even higher in some minority communities.

With this new round of funding, the CDC will invest over $20 million over four years to enhance tracking at eight sites and launch two new sites in its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM). All ten sites will track the number of school-aged children receiving autism services. Six sites will also track autism among preschoolers.  

“It's vitally important to monitor changes in the average age of diagnosis to see if we’re identifying and getting services to kids earlier,” comments epidemiologist Michael Rosanoff, Autism Speaks’ director for public health research. “It’s also crucial to maintain ongoing monitoring of prevalence over time and among different groups to better understand why prevalence is increasing and why we see differences among communities.”

Of particular importance, Rosanoff says, is the addition of a new monitoring site at the University of Minnesota. “This will enable us to continue surveillance of the Somali community in Minneapolis, where we’ve seen evidence of higher rates of autism complicated by intellectual disability,” he explains. Autism Speaks recently collaborated with the CDC and the National Institutes of Health to investigate autism among the city’s Somali immigrant community. (See “Study Finds High Rate of Autism among Minneapolis Somali Community.”)

In addition to tracking autism rates, ADDM staff will also conduct research aimed at better understanding why prevalence has increased dramatically over recent years. The centers will also carry out education and outreach activities in their local communities.

“We believe that the ADDM Network data can be used in communities across the country to help children with autism and other developmental disabilities live to the fullest,” says the CDC’s Dr. Boyle says.

The ten newly funded monitoring centers include:

* Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

* Johns Hopkins University

* Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

* The University of Wisconsin-Madison

* University of Arizona

* University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

** University of Minnesota

* University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

**Vanderbilt University

* Washington University in St. Louis

** New Sites

To learn more, also see:

Autism Speaks DSM-5 News and Updates

Autism Speaks Coverage of Autism’s Rising Prevalence