Autism Rates Continue to Climb

New research finds 1 in 44 8-year-old kids diagnosed with autism in the US
By Patti Verbanas
Patti Verbanas
Patti Verbanas
December 21, 2021 Updated: December 21, 2021

The autism rate among 8-year-old children in the United States is one in 44, according to a new report.

Researchers used a new method to estimate the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children of various ages at 11 sites in 2018. The rate of one in 44 among 8-year-olds is the highest estimate to date by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network since its inception in 2000.

For the study, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers analyzed information from 220,281 children, including 5,058 8-year-olds with ASD in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.

Boys with ASD outnumbered girls by 4.2 to one in the study, and differences in prevalence and median age of ASD diagnosis were evident across sites. Prevalence ranged from 1.6 percent (Missouri) to 3.9 percent (California), while the median age of diagnosis ranged from 36 months (California) to 63 months (Minnesota).

New Jersey’s autism rate (2.8 percent) was higher than the network average (2.3 percent) and higher than the 2016 estimate from New Jersey using the new CDC methodology (2.3 percent).

“The 2018 ADDM autism estimates are based on a new method of case-finding. The overall ADDM numbers are minimum estimates,” said report co-author Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“The revised ADDM method is faster but less comprehensive and is likely to underestimate the actual number of true cases and may miss children from underserved communities. If autism already affects 4 to 7 percent of 8-year-old children in many New Jersey areas, as shown in our recent study, and 4 percent in California according to the new ADDM findings, understanding the factors driving the rise in ASD prevalence should be a public health priority.”

New Jersey co-investigator and project coordinator Josephine Shenouda, who also serves as a research study manager at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School noted that race and financial status appear to be becoming less of a factor in ASD diagnoses.

“The new findings show that autism prevalence has not plateaued,” Shenouda said “We no longer see as many differences in prevalence by race. Black and Hispanic children have the same ASD prevalence as white children in multiple states, and many ADDM sites show that autism prevalence is no longer highest among children from affluent communities.”

Better strategies to improve early detection of autism are needed, as is new research to identify environmental triggers and risk factors for ASD, according to Zahorodny.

This article was originally published by Rutgers University. Republished via under Creative Commons License 4.0.