(ABC NEWS)- More children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their new numbers now show that autism affects one in 59 children, an increase from previously reported one in 68 children.
Dr. Walter Zahorodny, a pediatrician and autism researcher, is “stunned by the speed of increase.”
This data was collected in 2014 through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, an organization described by the study’s authors as “an active surveillance system that provides estimates of the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children aged 8 years.”
In this study, the ADDM Network first identified over 10,000 children with symptoms of ASD in 11 states. A team of researchers and experts in the field then reviewed their medical and school records since birth, confirming an autism diagnosis in 5,473 children. This extremely thorough approach limited confusion and ensured accurate and consistent diagnoses and results. Part of the difficulty in autism research is that there isn’t a medical “test” that determines if a child falls on the autism disorder spectrum — it’s an evaluation based on observation, so reliable numbers have been historically difficult to guarantee.
The overall prevalence of autism was 16.8 per 1,000 children, or 1.68 percent, according to the study. This number varied between different states. The state with the lowest rate was Arkansas at 13.1 per 1,000 children. The state with highest rate was New Jersey at 29.3 in 1,000 children. There’s no reason given for regional variation.
Zahorodny, the lead researcher at the New Jersey site, states “3 percent is a real landmark, given that we started at 1 percent autism prevalence 14 years ago.”
Historically, the rate of autism in white children is 20-30 percent greater than black children and 50-70 percent greater than Hispanic children. In agreement with that previous data, autism was more common in white children, although there was a significant increase in the diagnosis in black and Hispanic children, with the prevalence in white children only 7 percent greater than in black children and 22 percent greater than in Hispanic children. In agreement with past studies, autism was about four times more common in boys.