New data on autism released Thursday suggests that more children in the US are diagnosed with developmental disabilities at an earlier age.
When analyzing 2018 data from nearly a dozen states, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that among 8-year-olds, one in 44 was diagnosed with autism. By comparison, in 2016, one in 54 people was diagnosed with autism.
The number of autistic people in the United States has been on the rise for several years, but experts believe this reflects greater awareness and wider availability of treatment services for the condition than the actual increase in the number of children affected.
A separate CDC report released Thursday found that children were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with autism by age 4 in 2018 than they were in 2014.
“There is some progress, and the sooner children are identified, the sooner they can access the services they may need to improve their developmental outcomes,” said Kelly Shaw, CDC researcher and co-author.
Geraldine Dawson, director of the Duke University Center for Autism and Brain Development, said the new estimate is similar to the estimate from a study based on screening a large population of children rather than those already diagnosed. As such, she said this may be closer to reflecting the true state of autism in children in the US than previous estimates.
CDC reports are based on data from counties and other communities in 11 states, some with more urban areas where autism tends to be higher. According to the authors, these figures are approximate and do not necessarily reflect the entire situation in the United States.
Autism rates vary widely, from 1 in 26 in California, where there are many services, to 1 in 60 in Missouri.
Overall, the prevalence of autism was similar across race and ethnicity, but rates were higher among black children in two locations, Maryland and Minnesota. Until recently, data from the United States showed that prevalence among white children was higher.
In third place, Utah, rates were higher among children from low-income families than among children from wealthier families, reversing a long-standing trend, said report co-author Amanda Bakian, a researcher at the University of Utah who oversees the CDC’s autism surveillance at this state. …
Bakian said this likely reflects greater coverage of autism treatment services by Medicaid and private insurance companies.
Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.
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