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Calls to Action

New Perspective on Rising Prevalence

March 06, 2012

Over the last twenty years, the reported prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in the United States has increased more than 600 percent, bringing us to the now familiar statistic of 1 in 110 children. Even higher rates may soon be in the news, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prepares to release its latest autism statistics.

Why are we experiencing such dramatic increases in reported cases over such a short period of time? 

To answer this question and better understand the factors contributing to the rise, Autism Speaks and the CDC co-sponsored a workshop entitled “U.S. Data to Evaluate Changes in the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” last February. The workshop drew on leaders from the fields of epidemiology and public health, as well as from community stakeholders. Participants shared ideas and identified opportunities to enhance our understanding of increasing prevalence.

Workshop participants discussed the urgent demand for research into potential biologic and environmental risk factors that alone or in combination may increase the likelihood that a child will develop autism. Further, they agreed that the collection of the highest quality information is needed to guide research and clinical practice. This, in turn, will require collaboration among affected individuals, families, researchers, providers, advocates and government agencies.

The CDC has now released a complete summary of last year’s workshop along with an executive summary. You can download them from the following links: