The number of kids with autism has risen sharply, according to a new estimate issued March 27 by the Centers for Disease Control. The data finds autism spectrum disorders in one in every 68 children, up 30 percent from numbers reported just two years ago. The impact is greater on boys than girls, with one in every 42 boys affected, based on data of 8-year-old children in 11 sites across the U.S.
Autism spectrum disorders—or ASD—include a range of developmental issues that may involve problems with communication, social interaction, and restrictive or repetitive behaviors or interests. Of note, the new data shows that only 31 percent of children with ASD have intellectual disabilities. Almost half have average to above-average IQs.
UR Medicine autism expert Dr. Susan Hyman says these new statistics underscore four major needs:
- Screening: It’s important for all children to have the American Academy of Pediatrics-recommended developmental screening, including screening for autism at 18 and 24 months of age. Since signs may appear in older children, doctors should take parents’ concerns seriously and continue watching for signs of developmental issues throughout childhood.
- New tests: Screenings should be developed to accurately identify ASD in higher-functioning kids who are closer to school age.
- Outreach: We need to reach out to diverse communities with screening for autism and other developmental disabilities. Some kids who fail screening tests for ASD may still have other developmental delays and would benefit from diagnosis and intervention.
- Planning and support: The new statistics emphasize the importance of planning for the educational, leisure, and vocational supports that a growing number of kids with ASD will need as they approach adulthood.
The Rochester area is fortunate to have the support of pediatricians who embrace developmental screening and the benefits of early intervention for kids and their families. Local resources include a high-quality diagnostic clinic that is a member of the Autism Treatment Network and an active autism research program at the University of Rochester. And groups like AutismUp and MATT provide invaluable support to our families affected by autism spectrum disorders.
The combination of caring doctors, an academic medical center, an active community, and empowered families is an asset for people with autism spectrum disorders in the Rochester area, but the work is only beginning. Find out more about the research we’re doing and how you may be able to help by clicking here.
Susan. L. Hyman, M.D., is a professor of Pediatrics, Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and nationally recognized autism expert at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. She has more than 30 years of experience treating and researching autism spectrum disorders and is the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on autism.