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Autism Prevalence on the Rise: 1 in 68 Children Diagnosed With Autism Spectrum Disorder

​American Academy of Pediatrics Works for Greater Access to Screening and Interventions

In response to new data today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 1 in 68 U.S. children have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights the ongoing and urgent need for culturally sensitive screening and access to effective interventions for all children.

“The AAP is working to help make pediatric practices more equipped to provide ongoing care to the many children with autism,” said Dr. James Perrin, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP. “These rising rates certainly underscore the need to improve our understanding of the causes of autism and to work on prevention.”

The CDC data were collected as part of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network and were published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The data indicate the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder who were 8 years old in 2010. The prevalence represents a 30 percent increase in the past two years.

The AAP advocates for early screening for autism spectrum disorders, early diagnosis, and timely referral for effective intervention, coordinated through the medical home. Research shows that early intervention can considerably improve children’s long-term development and social behaviors. The AAP remains committed to providing its 62,000 member pediatricians with the tools and training they need to appropriately identify children with autism spectrum disorders and refer them to the treatment and services they need.

“The prevalence data makes even more important the Academy’s focus on early screening, identification and referral for intervention for all children, and our work to support collaborative medical homes for children, youth and adults with autism spectrum disorder,” said Susan Hyman, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP autism subcommittee.

“It’s critical that we as a society do not become numb to these numbers,” Dr. Hyman said. “They remind us of the work we need to do in educating clinicians and parents in effective interventions for all children, including those with developmental disabilities.”

The AAP urges Congress to reauthorize the Combatting Autism Act, which has led to significant advances in early intervention, behavioral treatments, and understanding of the causes of autism. Today’s numbers highlight the need to immediately reauthorize this legislation before funding expires.

The AAP is also partnering with other federal organizations in the Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive program, launching today. Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! is a coordinated effort by programs in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and support for children, families, and the providers who care for them. The AAP collaborated with these federal partners and will share information on this comprehensive initiative with AAP members.

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Published
3/27/2014 12:00 AM