The study found that about 1 in 150 American children, or 560,000, have autism, making the disorder an “urgent public health issue,” said Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, chief of the developmental disabilities branch of the CDC. The national prevalence of autism prior to the study was thought to be about 1 in 166.
“While the rates reflected in the Arkansas data are very concerning, we cannot yet say whether the increase is due to changes in diagnosis or to a true increase in cases,” said David Deere, director of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), a program of the Department of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine.
Arkansas’ findings include:
More Arkansas children are diagnosed with autism than ever before.
Boys are more than 3.5 times as likely to be diagnosed with autism (1 in 93 boys as compared with 1 in 345 girls).
The disorder occurs most often in Caucasian children and least often in Hispanic children.
The median age of diagnosis in Arkansas was 4 years 11 months.
Autism can be identified as early as 18 months of age. Eldon G. Schulz, M.D., a developmental pediatrician and professor of pediatrics and rehabilitation at UAMS/Arkansas Children’s Hospital, said it is unfortunate that autistic children are almost 5 years old before they’re diagnosed in Arkansas.
“None of the states reported adequate early identification,” Schulz said, noting that the age of diagnosis for all 14 states ranged from 4 years 1 month to 5 years 6 months.
“We simply must identify children at an early age so they may benefit from early intervention,” he said.
“When intensive services for a child begin early, the effects of autism are greatly reduced.”
Early autism identification resources are available by clicking here .