A new study published online today in the journal Pediatrics suggests a U.S. autism rate that is higher than those reported in other government studies.
A research team led by Michael D. Kogan estimates 2.5 percent of American children ages 3 to 17—1.5 million—have received an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. Kogan, of the Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and his team base their estimates on data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. The survey sampled of parents of more than 50,000 children, which the team says is nationally representative.
The estimate of a 2.5 percent ASD prevalence translates to one in 40 children on the spectrum—a notably higher number than the estimate of one in 59 children published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April (up from one in 68 children reported by the CDC in 2016).
However, the data sources and methodology for the two studies differ, so they aren’t directly comparable. Whereas the CDC analyzes medical and educational records of 8-year-olds in its network, Kogan and his team use Internet-based parent reports. According to Alycia Halladay, chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation, as quoted in a Disability Scoop article, “There is evidence to say that the method of collection impacts prevalence numbers.”
Halladay guesses the real prevalence rate may be between one in 40 and one in 59.
The Kogan-led survey also revealed many parents of children with ASD have difficulty finding appropriate services for their children. “Clinicians and the community should take this with other data,” says Halladay in the Disability Scoop article, “and say we need to do a better job at making sure we’re helping everyone in the family with autism, in addition to any other issues that they may have.”
Bridget Murray Law is editor-in-chief of The ASHA Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org