CDC survey shows increasing prevalence of autism

April 04, 2013

Data from telephone surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Health Statistics indicate that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder increased to 2 percent, or 1 in 50, among children ages 6 to 17. This result is significantly higher than the CDC’s official 2007 estimate of 1.16 percent, or 1 in 86, for the same age group.

The 2011–2012 telephone survey, outlined in this new report, asked nearly 100,000 parents across the country a range of health-related questions about children in the reported age group. According to Autism Speaks, this method may be more effective to capture the data necessary to detect prevalence of autism. The surveillance methods used to produce the CDC’s official estimates — which are based on medical and school records — do not always include children who are not receiving medical or special education services related to autism spectrum disorder.

Other survey findings include:

  • The increase in prevalence was greater for boys than girls; in 2011-2012, boys were four times more likely than girls to have autism.
  • Children who were diagnosed in or after 2008 were less likely to have severe autism.
  • The increase in prevalence is related to relatively recent diagnoses.