New CDC Study Indicates Autism Might Be More Prevalent Than Once Thought

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This past Friday, November 13, the CDC released the results of a 2014 survey that talked to 13,000 parents. The goal was to evaluate the prevalence of autism in the United States. Interestingly enough, the results were pretty high: one in 45, as opposed to the oft-cited one in 68.

group of happy little kids running outdoors

Now, that doesn’t mean autism prevalence has increased drastically over the span of a few years. Experts agree the large jump was probably due to the study’s design. See, in previous surveys conducted from 2011 to 2013, researchers asked participants three questions:

  1. Has your child ever been diagnosed with an intellectual disability?
  2. Has your child ever been diagnosed with any other developmental delays?
  3. Has your child ever been diagnosed with any of the following conditions: ASD, Diabetes, Sickle Cell Anemia, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Arthritis, Cystic Fibrosis, Congenital Heart Disease, and/or another heart condition?

In the 2014 survey, however, they made the last question more specific to autism spectrum disorders and then flipped number two and three around. They believed this was an improvement that made the survey questions clearer and, as a result, changed parental response.

“We feel we are asking the question in a better way than before,” Benjamin Zablotsky, one of the study’s authors, said. “One in 45 is what we think is the most accurate parental report of autism to date.”

Increased awareness and a broader diagnostic scope for autism may have contributed to the change, as well.

Speaking to psychologist

However, a more rigorous survey—one that studied 47,000 medical and school records from 2010—found that the autism prevalence was closer to the standard, one in 68 statistic. So it’s a bit tricky.

But as the Autism Society of America notes, the important thing isn’t so much numbers as it is offering support to those with autism. “Behind every number is someone who needs help today,” CEO Scott Badesch said.

You can support a child with autism by providing a family with quality therapy. Read on to find out how.

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A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.