Intriguing New Data Shows That a 30-Year Trend in Autism Rates May Have Changed

Autism rates have been on the rise for years, but that may be changing. A new study indicates that the prevalence of school-age children with autism is the same as previous years.

Autism can be a difficult condition to track. One of the ways the CDC attempts to do so is by watching 11 diverse communities and recording data about the prevalence of autism in school-age children. For the last two years, this data showed that about one child in 68 is on the autism spectrum. New data in 2016 showed the same rates, suggesting that autism prevalence may have hit a plateau.

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The cause of rising autism rates has long been a mystery to researchers. Some of it can be attributed to better awareness and more accurate diagnoses, particularly when compared to the 1970s and earlier, when only children with severe cognitive and behavioral difficulties were identified as having autism. Other research has indicated environmental factors. The exact causes remain elusive, however.

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The new data from the CDC is promising, but it remains too soon to tell for sure whether autism rates really have plateaued. The study that produced them only looks at those 11 communities, and autism rates vary even within those places. More research is needed to get a full picture of the prevalence of autism.

The 2016 data also suggests that some children with autism may still be falling through the cracks. Researchers believe that autism rates are fairly steady throughout the United States, so communities that appear to have lower rates may be failing to identify kids. White children also have a higher chance of being diagnosed with autism than children of other races, which also suggests that some kids may not be getting correct diagnoses.

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Medical researchers are still working to understand the causes of autism, but rates may have steadied for now. Visit this page to learn more about the prevalence of autism.


Our information about autism prevalence has been updated. Learn more here!

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