Autism rate up 15 percent over two-year period
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health contributed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that finds the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among 11 surveillance sites as one in 59 among children aged 8 years in 2014. This marks a 15 percent increase from the most recent report two years ago, and the highest prevalence since the CDC began tracking ASD in 2000.
Consistent with previous reports, boys were four times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls. The rate is one in 38 among boys (or 2.7 percent) and one in 152 among girls (or 0.7 percent).
As more children are diagnosed it’s becoming more important than ever that volunteer coaches are prepared to meet the needs of young athletes facing this challenge who are competing in sports. The National Alliance for Youth Sports provides a FREE Coaching Children with Mental Health Challenges online training for NAYS members which covers ASD, among many others. (Simply log in to your Member Account and the program is under the “Additional Trainings” header.)
The training features a variety of tips of information, as well as video clips with Dr. Jill Ehrenreich-May, Director of the Child and Adolescent Mood and Anxiety Treatment Program at the University of Miami (Fla.); and Dr. Kirk Dougher, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Florida Atlantic University.
ASD is a developmental disorder characterized by social and communication impairments, combined with limited interests and repetitive behaviors. Early diagnosis and intervention are key to improving learning and skills.
Rates have been rising since the 1960s, but researchers do not know how much of this rise is due to an increase in actual cases. There are other factors that may be contributing, such as: increased awareness, screening, diagnostic services, treatment and intervention services, better documentation of ASD behaviors and changes in diagnostic criteria.
For this new report, the CDC collected data at 11 regional monitoring sites that are part of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network in the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The Maryland monitoring site is based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
This is the sixth report by the ADDM Network, which has used the same surveillance methods for more than a decade. Estimated prevalence rates of ASD in the U.S. reported by previous data were:
one in 68 children in the 2016 report that looked at 2012 data
one in 68 children in the 2014 report that looked at 2010 data
one in 88 children in the 2012 report that looked at 2008 data
one in 110 children in the 2009 report that looked at 2006 data
one in 150 children in the 2007 report that looked at 2000 and 2002 data
"The estimated overall prevalence rates reported by ADDM at the monitoring sites have more than doubled since the report was first published in 2007," says Dr. Li-Ching Lee, a psychiatric epidemiologist with the Bloomberg School's departments of Epidemiology and Mental Health and the principal investigator for Maryland-ADDM. "Although we continue to see disparities among racial and ethnic groups, the gap is closing."
ASD prevalence was reported to be approximately 20 to 30 percent higher among white children as compared with black children in previous ADDM reports. In the current report, the difference has dropped to 7 percent.
In addition, approximately 70 percent of children with ASD had borderline, average or above average intellectual ability, a proportion higher than that found in ADDM data prior to 2012.
Some trends in the latest CDC report remain similar, such as the greater likelihood of boys being diagnosed with ASD.
The causes of autism are not completely understood; studies show that both environment and genetics may play a role. The CDC recommends that parents track their child's development and act quickly to get their child screened if they have a concern. Free checklists and information for parents, physicians and child care providers are available at:
Mental Health Challenges
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