Autism In The United States

This is the only guide you'll need to understanding autism in the U.S.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 20, 2023
min read

How Do Clinicians Diagnose Autism?

There is no singular test capable of diagnosing autism, though medical experts are attempting to look into something similar in the future. As of now, clinicians are dependent on observations made regarding the behavior shown in someone to make a diagnosis.

In the United States, the DSM shows the proper requirements that are needed for psychologists to conclude the diagnosis of a patient suspected to have the disorder. They range from a lack of social communicative skills to apathy, and excessively repeating behaviors.

What Is The Prevalence Of Autism In The U.S.?

Based on information obtained by the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every 59 kids in the United States has autism. This also includes children that haven't been diagnosed. Prevalence is 300% higher in boys than girls, with males in general having a greater chance of being diagnosed nationwide.

How Does The CDC Arrive At This Number?

Researchers working for the CDC analyze the health and academic record of some children, primarily those that are eight years old.

Clinicians can record every two years for autistic indicators like kids exhibiting behavior that's repetitive and social problems.

Their analysis is on eight-year-olds due to the majority of kids that age being in school and undergoing regular checkups on their health.

They choose if every kid falls in line with the conditions that are characteristic of autism, regardless if there's a diagnosis or not. Once that's done, they deduce their findings to all children located in a state or region.

The prevalence of autism is predicated on information gathered in the 2010s over 10 states. In some of the locations, medical experts conducted evaluations on the medical records of children as young as four.

The initial analysis of the data hints that autism prevalence for children younger than five grew from one out of 75 kids in 2010 to one out of 59 just four years later.

This is about the same for kids that are eight.A new preliminary program is being done by the CDC to study autism in teenagers. Clinicians want to evaluate records of adolescents that are 16 but only those diagnosed with the disorder eight years prior.

How Accurate Is The CDC’s Approach?

The approach takes a detailed look at kids living in specific locations, not only those with a diagnosis. However, depending on medical and school records cannot produce the same level of accuracy as conducting assessments on children personally.

Indeed, the approach also disregards kids that don't have medical or school records, such as children that have been home-schooled or reside in isolated locations.

Kids within the areas that are evaluated aren't examples of every child that lives in a region or state.

The prevalence that's reported can differ in each state, with a range in levels of services given to people.In two countrywide surveys done in 2016, examiners questioned if a healthcare provider had informed them of their child having ASD.

This concluded in larger estimates for autism prevalence, with one out of 40 children. Still, parental surveys aren't as dependable as the approach done by the CDC.

How Has Autism Prevalence Changed Over Time?

Currently, autism prevalence is around one out of every 59 people. This is up by 16% from over ten years ago and nearly 50% higher than in the year 2000. Autism diagnosis has increased since the 1990s, including elsewhere around the world.

Has Our Definition Of Autism Changed Over The Years?

The way that people think about autism, along with how it's diagnosed, has significantly changed since it was first discovered in the early to the mid-20th century.

In the 1940s, it was described by some to be infantile autism, a condition where children were shown to be withdrawn from the crown and socially isolate themselves.

In the late 1960s, medical researchers believed that one out of every 2,500 kids was autistic. Such early estimations of autism's prevalence typically focused on kids that showed the most severe symptoms, not those with milder characteristics. Autism wasn't included in the DSM until 1980.

In the late 1980s, one edition broadened the criteria by legitimizing a diagnosis made if traits were seen in children as young as 30 months. Out of 16 criteria shown in the DSM, at least eight of them must be evident.

After that, prevalence began to increase among the general population. In 1991, the Department of Education claimed that an autism diagnosis allows special education for children.

Before this stipulation, most autistic kids were thought to have intellectual disabilities. It also motivated parents to see if their child had the disorder.

Still, kids with both intellectual disabilities and autism at the same time have increased.In 1994, that year's edition of the DSM added more to the definition of autism.

It included Asperger's and other mild symptoms. Since that time, Asperger's is considered to be a symptom that can be present in some people with ASD.Some researchers feel autism's prevalence will lower based on too many strict rules on the way it's defined in recent editions of the DSM.

Has The Rising Awareness Of Autism Contributed To The Prevalence?

Greater awareness of autism has led to greater prevalence on a nationwide scale.When more people are aware of a disorder's existence, increases in checkups with doctors will follow, meaning that fewer people will have the disorder while not knowing that it exists.

Up until the 1980s, most people with ASD were placed in mental institutions, resulting in them becoming an afterthought to the public. Research shows that when people with children are aware of the presence of ASD, they stand a better chance of taking their child to get checked with a psychologist.

Parents that have little to no knowledge about autism aren't likely to do the same.

People living in cities with good medical facilities are also more likely to take their children for a checkup. Furthermore, with increased awareness of autism comes larger estimations of prevalence by the CDC.

Are There Other Factors That Have Influenced Prevalence?

A lot of people diagnosed with ASD could've had a past misdiagnosis for something else. But since diagnoses have increased, people with problems such as intellectual disabilities have lowered slightly.With an autism diagnosis also comes better access to services that are specialized for them.

Older editions of the DSM didn't allow two diagnoses to be made simultaneously, such as ASD and ADHD. Since more is allowed now, kids with developmental delays are now evaluated, helping boost prevalence.


steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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