In an analysis of 2020 data from nearly a dozen states, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that among 8-year-olds, 1 in 36 had been diagnosed with autism.

March 24, 2023

The Centers for Disease Control shared data this week on 8- and 4-year-olds indicating that more U.S. kids are diagnosed with autism and the pandemic may have delayed care. Data published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reported data from 11 communities around the U.S. They found that 1 in 36 8-year-olds are identified as autistic — a 22% increase over previous estimates of 1 in 44.

One report found that 1 in 36 8-year-old children have been diagnosed with autism, according to 2020 data from 11 states.

  • The CDC reported shifts in racial and ethnic disparities in autism prevalence – for the first time in years of CDC data collection, non-white children are identified as having autism at higher rates than white children;
  • The findings represent a nearly 20 percent increase over the 1 in 44 estimates based on 2018 data;
  • As in the past, among racial groups, Black children with autism and co-occurring intellectual disability are identified at significantly higher rates — suggesting that some Black children without intellectual disabilities are too-often missed;
  • Autism is nearly four times more prevalent in boys; among girls, prevalence is 1 in 88.

A separate report from the CDC found that identification among 4-year-old children was disrupted during the pandemic closures in 2020, which may have implications for future prevalence data. The researchers suggested, “communities could evaluate the impact of these disruptions as children in affected cohorts age and consider strategies to mitigate service disruptions caused by future public health emergencies.” Investigators also stated these data indicate that autism is common across all groups of children and underscore the considerable need for equitable and accessible screening, services, and support for all children.

This announcement again amplifies the immediate need to fund biological research on the cause of autism and potential treatments for people on the spectrum. Research continues to point out the complex heterogeneity of autism. Funding is urgently needed to support researchers and clinicians investigating autism spectrum disorders.

Since 1995, ARI has called together experts to discuss emerging research on the biological aspects and co-occurring medical conditions associated with the disorder. We join other organizations calling for appropriately funded research to protect the health and well-being of people with autism for generations to come.

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