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US Autism Rates Reach New High; NC Figures Higher Than National Average

March 30, 2012

A new study estimates that 1 in 88 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Thursday (March 29) that looked at data gathered in 2008 from 14 communities, including central North Carolina.

The new data show that autism rates in the U.S. are higher than previous estimates released in 2009, which found 1 in 110 children were diagnosed with autism or a related disorder. The latest figures also show that autism spectrum disorders are almost five times more common among boys than girls — with 1 in 54 boys identified.

Julie Daniels, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who collaborated on the CDC study, said autism prevalence in North Carolina is higher than previously estimated and slightly higher than the national average. The estimate for the state was 1 in 70 children, with a rate of 1 in 43 boys and 1 in 196 girls.

“This report shows the magnitude of the condition across our country and in North Carolina,” said Daniels, associate professor of epidemiology and maternal and child health in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and principal investigator for the North Carolina site of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. The N.C. arm of the network is a collaboration between the Gillings School and the state´s public health and education agencies.

The prevalence estimates are based on children who were 8 years old in 2008.

Daniels also noted that number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder in central North Carolina and across other sites in the U.S. had increased since researchers began tracking the data in 2002.

In contrast to previous years, the rate among black children caught up with and was now similar to the rate among white children. The rate among Hispanic children still remained lower.

Details from the CDC report, “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008,” will be published in the March 30, 2012 issue of the center´s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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