A new report from the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities‘ Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network shows that many children who are living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are not receiving comprehensions evaluations when developmental concerns are initially identified. As these children need services and support both now and as they mature into adolescence and adulthood, more needs to be done to ensure they are evaluated as soon as possible.
1. The estimated percentage of children with ASD remains high.
About 1 in 68 or 1.5% of children were identified with ASD based on tracking in 11 communities across the United States in 2012.
- According to previous reports, the percentage of children identified with ASD increased between 2002 and 2010.
- The new report shows no change between 2010 and 2012 in the percentage of children identified with ASD.
2. It is too soon to tell if the percentage of children identified with ASD is still increasing or has stabilized.
Here are two reasons why it is too soon to tell:
- While the average percentage of children identified with ASD in all 11 communities stayed the same, in two communities, the percentage of children identified with ASD increased significantly between 2010 and 2012.
- The percentage of children identified with ASD ranged widely by community—in communities where both health and special education records were reviewed, estimates ranged from a low of 1.2% in parts of South Carolina to a high of 2.4% in parts of New Jersey.
CDC will continue to track ASD over time so as to better understand if the percentage of children identified with ASD is staying the same or continuing to increase.
3. Children identified with ASD are not receiving comprehensive developmental evaluations as early as they could be.
Most children identified with ASD had concerns about their development noted in their health and/or special education records by age three years. Yet, less than half of children with ASD received a comprehensive developmental evaluation by this same age. A lag between first concern and first comprehensive developmental evaluation may affect when children are being diagnosed and connected to the services they need.
4. Black and Hispanic children are less likely to be identified with ASD. Those that are identified with ASD receive comprehensive developmental evaluations later than white children who are identified with ASD.
Previous research has not shown that black or Hispanic children have a lower risk than white children to develop ASD. However, since ADDM data showed that black and Hispanic children were less likely to be identified with ASD, it is possible that these children face socioeconomic or other barriers resulting in a lack of or delayed access to evaluation, diagnosis, and services.
5. Schools play a vital role in evaluating and serving children with ASD.
The percentage of children identified with ASD was highest in all communities combined where both health and special education records were reviewed compared to all communities combined where only health records were reviewed.