Autism Among Children In The United States
In an effort to track the number and characteristics of children in the U.S. with autism, the CDC established the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network in 2000. The network collects data from 11 sites throughout the country in order to better understand the impact of ASD in different communities.
The 11 surveillance areas vary in their data set. For example, Arkansass site consists of all 75 counties in the state, whereas Marylands site is just one county in the Baltimore metro area.
Data published in the most recent ADDM Network report, which was released in March 2020, revealed significant shifts and differences in ASD diagnoses and prevalence around the country. Overall, ASD estimates increased significantly across the country, with some sites exhibiting much higher rates of autism than others.
In 2016, the prevalence of ASD among 8-year-old children living across the 11 sites was as follows:
- Arizona: 1.6%
- Tennessee: 1.6%
- Wisconsin: 1.7%
Researchers from the ADDM Network are still gathering information to better understand why prevalence rates vary so much between sites.
While there was no overall difference in autism prevalence among black and white children, there were disparities in early diagnoses and interventions for black children. On average, black and Hispanic children received initial evaluations and diagnoses later than white children, as well as more delayed opportunities for early intervention services.
Associated Medical & Mental Health Conditions
- Autism can affect the whole body.;
- Attention Deficient;Hyperactivity;Disorder ;affects an estimated 30 to 61 percent;of children with autism.;
- More than half;of children with autism;have one or more chronic sleep problems.;
- Anxiety disorders affect an estimated 11 to 40 percent of children and teens on the autism spectrum.;
- Depression affects an estimated 7% of children and 26% of adults with autism.;
- Children with autism are nearly eight times more likely to suffer from one or more chronic;gastrointestinal disorders than are other children.;
- As many as one-third of people with autism have epilepsy;.;
- Studies suggest that schizophrenia affects between 4 and 35 percent of adults with autism. By contrast, schizophrenia affects an estimated 1.1 percent of the general population.;
- Autism-associated health problems extend across the life span from young children to senior citizens.;Nearly a third of 2 to;5 year;olds;with autism are overweight and 16 percent are obese. By contrast, less than a quarter of 2 to;5 year;olds;in the general population are overweight and only 10 percent are medically obese.;
- Risperidone and aripiprazole, the only FDA-approved medications for autism-associated agitation and irritability.;
Rates Are On The Rise
An estimated 1 in 40 children;in this country have autism to some degree, according to a recent study from Pediatrics;based on 2016 data. That’s about;1.5 million children ;between the ages;3 to 17. Nationwide, autism strikes three to four times more boys than girls; the rates are about the same for kids of all races.
Although there seems to be an autism epidemic, the Pediatrics study;attributes the increasing prevalence to more inclusive;reporting. The definition of autism has been expanded in the past decade to include a wider spectrum of problems with communication and social interaction. “Ten years ago, many children with mild autism were simply not diagnosed,” says Adrian Sandler, M.D., a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Mission Children’s Hospital, in Asheville, North Carolina, and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on children with disabilities. Plus, there are more state and federal programs for autistic kids, giving doctors an incentive to diagnose and refer them. However, there may be additional, unknown reasons for the spike in autism rates, and researchers are investigating everything from environmental toxins to viruses to food allergies.
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Uncles Aunts May Influence A Child’s Odds For Autism
WEDNESDAY, May 27, 2020 — A child with an uncle or aunt with autism appears to have a more than doubled risk of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder themselves, a new U.S. government-funded study reports.
Roughly 3% to 5% of children with an aunt or uncle with autism can also be expected to have some form of autism, compared with just 1.5% of children overall, according to the study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
However, researchers portray this as reassuring news for a person with a brother or sister with autism who is thinking about starting a family.
A couple who’ve had one child with autism have a 20% to 50% chance that later siblings also will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder , said study co-author Dr. John Constantino, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“On average, these results are a potential source of reassurance to siblings of individuals with autism, in terms of having their own children,” Constantino said. “It shows the risk is elevated, but not dramatically.”
Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in early childhood and affects communication, social skills and learning.
The study results also cast doubt on a theory of autism that holds that girls have built-in resistance to ASD-related genes, potentially explaining why three times as many boys are diagnosed with autism as girls, researchers added.
Three Sets Of Traits In Siblings Signal Autisms Heritability
by Nicholette Zeliadt;/;26 November 2015
A study of more than 2,500 families that have at least one child with autism has found three factors that influence autism symptoms in an unaffected sibling1.
Children who have two or more siblings with autism tend to have more autism traits than those who have only one affected sibling, according to the study. Having a sister with autism also ups the likelihood of autism traits, but only for boys who have at least two siblings on the spectrum.
The study also fingered a third influence on sibling risk: language problems. Unaffected children who have language delay and atypical speech qualities such as using odd phrases or invented words have more autism symptoms than those whose language development is typical. This finding suggests that language delays may be a signal that an individual carries autism risk factors.
The results, published 27 October in Molecular Autism, support the notion that families with more than one child on the spectrum harbor more genetic risk factors for autism than those with only one affected child.
There seem to be three sets of siblings that are at increased risk for potentially passing on autism, because they have elevated autism traits themselves, says lead investigator Thomas Frazier, director of the Center for Autism at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
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Early Treatment Is Crucial
There is no known cure for autism, but intensive therapy helps a child learn a wide range of skills ;from making eye contact to hugging to having a conversation. And the sooner a child begins, the better. A panel of experts convened by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 recommended that children should have 25 hours of therapy per week as soon as autism is suspected. Because children with autism have very different behaviors and abilities, the most effective approach takes into account a child’s unique challenges and encourages healthy development through play, rather than just trying to change specific symptoms. “Intervention can take many forms, from going to a regular preschool to a parent’s working with her child over the course of a normal day to direct therapies from well-trained teachers and professionals ;all depending on the child,” Dr. Lord says.
Kids Are Getting Diagnosed Sooner
There’s no laboratory or medical test for detecting autism, so doctors must rely on behavioral signs. In the past, many were reluctant to label a child as autistic until symptoms became obvious. “The average age for diagnosis had been about 3.5, with many children diagnosed much later,” says Amy Wetherby, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. But that’s changing.
One reason is that pediatricians are becoming more aware of autism. At the same time, autism specialists are better at identifying early telltale signs such as a lack of babbling or pointing. “Most children with autism will show some signs of developmental disruption by their first birthday,” says Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., an autism researcher at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute.
And while no one is yet diagnosing autism in children that young, doctors can now make a reliable assessment by 24 months;when a child’s brain is still rapidly developing. “If we can intervene while a child’s brain is very immature, it will be much easier to help change her behavior,” Dr. Wetherby says.
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What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder
There is no clear-cut cause of ASD. Some causes that are supported by research include genetic and some environmental factors. Specific genetic causes can only be identified in 10% to 20% of cases. These cases include specific genetic syndromes associated with ASD and rare changes in the genetic code.
Risk factors include older parental age, low birth weight, prematurity and maternal use of valproic acid or thalidomide during pregnancy, among others. This field of study is an active one for reasearch.
A Study Looks At Moms Of Two Children With Special Needs
Parenting two children with special needs is particularly challenging, according to one of the few studies focused on this issue.
Researchers studied mothers who had a teenage or adult child with autism, and a second child with autism or a different disability. Those mothers had more symptoms of depression and anxiety than mothers who had just one child with a disability. They also had more problems with family cohesion and with adapting to new situations or needs. “This suggests that families who face competing demands may become less flexible in their ability to accommodate everyone’s needs,” the authors wrote.8
Educators and therapists often recommend that parents use schedules and routines to help their children with autism manage anxiety and cope with change. Perhaps being less flexible sticking to the family’s plans may simply be a coping skill, some researchers speculated.9
But what do you do if your children with ASD need different routines?
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The Outlook For Autism In 2021
While autistic individuals face difficulties that make various aspects of life more challenging, greater knowledge about the disorder has paved the way to better therapies. Autism research has allowed for more effective diagnostic processes as well as enhanced treatments and a better understanding of necessary accommodations for those with the disorder.
Effective interventions, therapies, and health care services greatly improve quality of life for those autism. Thanks to these advancements in our approach to autism treatment, there are more opportunities for autistic individuals than ever before.
When Did Autism First Become A Diagnosis
The term autism was first introduced in 1943 to describe children who exhibited socially withdrawn and isolated behaviors. Children who received a diagnosis of autism likely showed severe behaviors, and children with milder symptoms may have gone unnoticed.
Since 1943, the definition and diagnostic criteria of autism have evolved greatly.
- 1966: Autism prevalence was believed to be roughly 1 in 2,500 children.
- 1980: Autism spectrum disorder was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders .
- 1987: A new edition of the DSM expanded the diagnostic criteria so that 8 of 16 criteria had to be met in order to receive a diagnosis, rather than all 6 of the previously listed criteria.
- 1994: The DSM-IV added Asperger syndrome under the definition of ASD, broadening diagnostic criteria again.
- 2013: The DSM-5 combined autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder all under the label of autism.
The broadening of the definition and diagnostic criteria of autism has contributed to the steady increase in ASD diagnoses over the past decades. Combined with more awareness of the disorder, more people are receiving an autism diagnosis early in life and gaining access to essential services.
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What Are The Chances Of Having A Child With Autism And Does This Go Up For A Second Child
In general, for any random couple, the chances of having a child with autism spectrum disorder is approx. 1 in 68 or 1.5%.
But the risk does go up dramatically to 20% for families who already have a child with ASD.
If the family already has more than one child with ASD, the chances of another child having ASD increases to 30%. And the risk is even higher, if that child is a boy.
So it is clearly something parents must think about carefully before plunging in without thought.
An Early Arrival An Early Diagnosis
Cindy Yeager’s twins, a boy and girl, arrived early, as twins often do. She credits a friend, an occupational therapist, with pushing her to enroll them in Maryland’s program for infants and toddlers with developmental delays. A teacher in that program noticed that her son, Aaron, flapped his hands, a behavior often seen in autism.
That led to appointments with a child psychiatrist, who diagnosed both with autism. Mrs. Yeager got the news on the same day. She took it in stride. “It wasnt a shock because we knew something was wrong,” she said. And it offered hope: “When you get the correct diagnosis, you get the correct services. Now their teachers knew what to do.”
Fraternal twins are more likely to both have autism than siblings who are not twins. Scientists theorize that may because they share the same prenatal environment. Identical twins, who have the same genes, have the highest rate of both having autism 88 percent among all siblings.6
Although both Yeager twins received autism therapies and early intervention services, they travelled different paths, as siblings with ASD often do.
Hayley began talking at age 4, and entered a regular kindergarten class at 5, with a special education plan. Aaron did not develop speech, and he enrolled in an intensive program at a different school. For the Yeagers, that meant attending special education meetings and getting to know teachers and therapists at separate schools.
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Large Head Size Is A Red Flag
Recent findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that the brains of children with autism develop differently from an early age. Researchers discovered that most infants who were later diagnosed with autism had small head circumferences at birth but had heads ;and brains ;much larger than normal by 6 to 14 months. “Some of them went all the way up to the 90th percentile in just a few months,” says study coauthor Natacha Akshoomoff, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Those who ended up with the most severe form of autism were found to have the most dramatic acceleration of brain growth during infancy.
Pediatricians don’t always measure head circumference at well-baby visits, so it’s wise to request it. However, don’t panic if your baby’s head size is above the norm. Some babies just have big heads. “Rapid head growth is not a way to diagnose autism,” Dr. Akshoomoff points out, “but it means that a child should be watched closely to be sure that she meets speech and behavioral milestones.”
Rates Of Autism In 2021
Autism is a common developmental condition, affecting approximately 1 in 54 children in the United States. Far more boys are diagnosed with autism than girls .
Most diagnoses are made after the age of 4, though a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can be reliably made by the age of 2. Earlier screening tools are being used to catch cases earlier, allowing for therapy to begin at the soonest point possible, which results in the most successful outcomes.
All ethnic and socioeconomic groups are affected by autism. There is no medical test or cure for the disorder.
The exact cause of autism is unknown, though many risk factors have been identified.
- There is a genetic link to autism. If there is a family history of autism, it raises the likelihood that a child will develop autism.
- Parental age is a factor. Children born to older parents have a higher risk of autism.
- If your first child has ASD, your second child has a 2% to 18% chance of also having ASD.
- Despite past media coverage, there is no connection between childhood vaccines and ASD.
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The Demographics Of Autism
Studies have found that all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups are impacted by autism.
When evaluating the impact of socioeconomic status on ASD diagnoses, researchers have found that the prevalence of ASD increases with socioeconomic status. This could be due in part to greater access to health care and therefore a higher likelihood of receiving a diagnosis.
Researchers have also identified racial and ethnic differences in the prevalence of autism. Among black, white, and Hispanic children, the difference in the prevalence of ASD has remained relatively consistent over time, especially among those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Black and white children see nearly identical prevalence of ASD. Hispanic children, however, are less likely to receive an autism diagnosis.
Autism advocates are striving to expand access to diagnostic testing and subsequent services for children in underrepresented populations. The sooner children receive intervention services, the more they are likely to gain from them. This increases the chances that they will effectively acquire essential life skills for independent learning and living as they grow up.
How Likely Is It That I Could Have Another Child With Autism
I am a parent of a young boy with autism. I dont know of any other individuals in my family with an autism diagnosis but am considering having more children. How likely is it that I could have another child with autism?
Answered by Scott M. Myers, MD, FAAP, Neurodevelopmental Pediatrician, Geisinger Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute, Lewisburg, PA.
This important question is asked by many parents who are considering having more children. The answer depends greatly on whether a specific genetic cause of your childs autism spectrum disorder has been identified. Currently, genetic testing can identify a specific cause in approximately 15% of children with ASD, and this information allows more accurate counseling about recurrence risk for the individual family. In instances where a genetic cause is unknown, different types of studies have found varying rates of recurrence risk.
For families in which a genetic cause of ASD has been identified, the recurrence risk varies significantly depending on the type of genetic problem found. For example, the risk could be as high as 50%, as in the case of a child who inherits a specific extra segment of DNA on the 15th chromosome from his/her mother. Or, the recurrence risk could be as low as 1% or less if the child has a small missing or extra section of DNA that is not carried by either parent.
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