Autism Diagnosis Rates Higher than Ever in 1 in 59 Children Diagnosed
read more on this topic as Dr. Weinstein talks about the factors that influence this rate increase
According to recent reports, the diagnosis rate for autism has climbed to 1 in every 59 children. These findings were provided by CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. This network tracks the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in over 300,000 children. The information collected from this network is highly reliable as it is the largest population-based program to monitor ASD and to examine further health and education records.
These recent estimates are from a combination of 11 communities researched within the states of Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The 8-year old children researched make up a total of 8% of children at that age living in the United States.
This latest finding is eye opening, considering these numbers only continue to grow. According to the last estimate released in 2016, 1 in 68 children were found to be on the autism spectrum. This leads researchers to push to find more answers to what factors may lead to ASD in children.
The change in prevalence, according to the study, may be contributed to improved autism detection in minorities. However, autism is still identified most often in white children. This is a critical identification as early intervention is key to best serving the needs of children on the spectrum. Early interventions have been proven to help many children better develop their cognitive, motor,
social, and daily living skills. Any lag between initial concerns and evaluating the child can delay the child from getting the services that may be available to them.
According to Stuart Shapira, M.D., Ph.D., “Parents can track their child’s development and act early if there is a concern. Healthcare providers can acknowledge and help parents act on those concerns. And those who work with or on behalf of children can join forces to ensure that all children with autism get identified and connected to the services they need as early as possible. Together we can improve a child’s future.”
The new estimate represents a 15% increase from two years prior and a 150% increase since 2000. Autism spectrum disorder, (ASD), a developmental disability, is characterized by an individual’s social skills, verbal and written communication, and repetitive behaviors. The signs and symptoms of autism become most evident between the ages of two and three, but some
cases have seen patients diagnosed as early as eighteen months old.
Is autism a growing epidemic or are the dramatic jumps in numbers due to other factors,
better reporting, and more inclusive criteria?
Before you get alarmed about a massive epidemic, consider the following. Many scientists and social scientists believe the climbing numbers in autism diagnosis are attributable to a few factors: the definition of autism has broadened; there is improved screening among black and Hispanic children and there is more funding for the process of screening, evaluation and diagnosis of autism. This naturally leads to an increase.
Social policies that affect access to services have also changed. This means increased funding for treating autism which may motivate parents of children with “special needs” to find ways to get an autism diagnosis so they can get funding for treatment. In other words, autism is not necessarily dramatically increasing in prevalence. Rather, we have better and more inclusive criteria for defining it and more funding for treatment so those with borderline or allied conditions look for loopholes.
This theory is supported by the following facts. In 1994, autism was redefined. Additionally,
the way diagnoses were reported changed. But a precise methodology for defining and
estimating prevalence didn’t come until 1996. Funding for studies of autism prevalence
didn’t happen until 2000. With better definition, more funding and more studies, more
children are being diagnosed. That makes sense.
Dr. Joshua Weinstein, MBA, Ph.D
Researchers also consider other theories to explain the increase in autism prevalence.One particularly cogent explanation is that we’re waiting longer to have children. According to medical studies, older parents are more likely to have a child with autism.Moreover, due to advances in medicine, more premature babies survive. Some studies suggest these babies are at higher risk of developing autism.
Other plausible explanations include environmental toxins, nutritional changes, interacting factors in the womb, or unknown genetic causes. Experts agree: we need more research
before we can reach a definitive conclusion.
But in the interim, autism spectrum disorder, although now better understood, still has its
mysteries. This includes why at least four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed.
Many find it disturbing that the increase in prevalence shows no drop in age when autism is identified. Most children are still being diagnosed after the age of four eventhough it can be identified as early as age two. An early diagnosis is critical since early intervention provides the greatest prospect to support healthy growth, offers better outcomes and comes with numerous advantages.
Joshua Weinstein has been an educator and administrator for over four decades. He holds a Ph.D., two Masters Degrees in Educational Administration and Supervision and a MBA in Executive Administration. He has been the CEO in healthcare, social services, and business corporations. He’s the president and founder of Shema Kolainu - Hear Our Voices and iCare4Autism - International Center for Autism Research & Education- a global leader in autism research & education. He can be reached via email at
Autism on the Rise?
In 1998, when Shema Kolainu opened its doors as the first Jewish school for children with autism, the prevalence rate for autism was 1 in 500. The latest studies published this year by the CDC, Center of Disease Control, cite the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder as 1 in 59, up from 1 in 68 just a year ago. By all calculations, this seems like an epidemic of massive proportions.