How Many Kids Are Affected by Autism?

Alexis Welin, Junior,  March 22, 2017

One in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a 30% increase from 1 in 88 two years ago,according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This newest estimate is based on the CDC’s evaluation of health and educational records of all 8-year-old children in 11 states: Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Utah and New Jersey. The incidence of autism ranged from a low of 1 in 175 children in Alabama to a high of 1 in 45 in New Jersey, according to the CDC. Children with autism continue to be overwhelmingly male. According to the new report, the CDC estimates 1 in 42 boys has autism, 4.5 times as many as girls (1 in 189).


It is problematic to compare autism rates over the last three decades, as the diagnostic criteria for autism have changed with each revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which outlines which symptoms meet the criteria for an ASD diagnosis. In 1983 the DSM did not recognize PDD-NOS or Asperger’s syndrome, and the criteria for autistic disorder (AD) were more restrictive. The previous edition of the DSM, DSM-IV, included autistic disorder, childhood disintegration
disorder, PDD-NOS, and Asperger’s Syndrome. Due to inconsistencies in diagnosis and how much we are still learning about autism, the most recent DSM (DSM 5) only has one diagnosis, ASD, which encompasses each of the previous four disorders. According to the new diagnostic criteria for ASD, one must have
both deficits in social communication and interaction, and restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities (RRBs).

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