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Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder, as reported by parents, rises to 1 in 40


Some 2.5 percent of U.S. children have an autism spectrum disorder, according to children’s parents. A report released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics details how researchers from multiple organizations reviewed the most recent data from a national survey representing 50,212 children and estimated that parents of 1 in 40 U.S. children have reported their child had autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This estimate is higher than in some other published studies. However, the authors note that differences in published estimates of ASD prevalence likely reflect the fact that studies have used different sampling methods, focused on different age ranges and have been conducted during different time frames.

Children with parent-reported ASD diagnosis were 44 percent more likely to have greater health care needs and difficulties accessing health care than children with other emotional or behavioral disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, behavioral or conduct problems, depression, developmental delay, Down syndrome, intellectual disability, learning disability, and Tourette syndrome. The researchers also report that 27 percent of U.S. children with ASD took medication for ASD-related symptoms and 64 percent received behavioral treatment.

Researchers involved with the study, The Prevalence of Parent-Reported Autism Spectrum Disorder among US Children, represent the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Harvard, Drexel, and George Washington Universities.

The study’s authors state that their findings show that children with ASD face many challenges, including gaining needed access to a variety of treatment options, and that they particularly need referrals and care coordination to improve their long-term outcomes.

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