1 in 45 Kids Thought to Have Autism, Thanks to Changes in Survey Questionnaire

Autism spectrum diagnosisResults from a new CDC survey reveal 1 in 45 kids, ages 3 to 17, has autism in the United States. This is a remarkable jump in their reports, from 1.25 to 2.24 percent, that's likely due to a change in a question on the survey.


Published in the CDC's National Health Statistics Reports, results from a 2014 study indicate changes to questions on developmental disabilities from previous years. In particular, families who participated in last year's study were asked if a health provider ever told them that their son or daughter had autism, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Asperger's disorder, or a pervasive developmental disorder.

A little more than 2 percent answered yes, which moved statistics from 1 in 80 children (based on a survey from the years 2011 to 2013) to 1 in 45 children. Authors of the 2014 study note certain questions were reworded, in efforts to be less confusing.

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Experts believe the significant increase in autism rates is likely from the labels parents used to describe their child -- and how researchers interviewed them. Asperger's disorder, for example, wasn't specifically asked in past surveys.

It's important to note, however, that while reports of children diagnosed with autism went up, the number of kids with "other developmental delays" decreased. Parents who indicated their child had a developmental disability was roughly the same.

In response to the 2014 survey results, there are experts who will stick with the 1 in 68 estimate -- one of three estimates the CDC has published -- as changes to the questionnaire probably caused discrepancies. The CDC also mentioned in the report that children who were previously diagnosed as autistic were included in the latest numbers, even if they no longer fit the criteria.

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Regardless of how much statistics may change, one thing is important: awareness. While this parent survey probably won't replace official estimates used in the past, it does reveal the need and, more importantly, access to care and services.



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