CDC: Autism now affects at least one in 50 U.S. children

We underestimated how common autism is, advocacy group says

A new CDC report concludes that at least one million U.S. children—or about one in 50—have been diagnosed with autism, up from previous data that suggested one in 88 U.S. children had an autism diagnosis.

The findings were drawn from the National Survey of Children's Health, a phone survey of households with children that is conducted every four years.

CDC: There are not more cases of autism, just more diagnoses

Health officials say the new number does not mean that autism prevalence has increased, but that physicians are diagnosing children with autism more frequently, especially in 14-17 year old boys. According to the report, about 50% of the 14-17 year old age group has been diagnosed with "mild" autism—which researchers suggest is understandable, considering that many of these cases went undiagnosed for many years.

According to Autism Speaks spokesman Michael Rosanoff, the new statistics reveal that the nation has "been underestimating" the commonness of the condition.

APA decision fallout

The increase of autism diagnoses may also reflect the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) decision to eliminate Asperger's syndrome from their fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM-V.  Asperger's is now thought of as "learning disorder" and not on the autism spectrum, according to DSM-V, but opponents of the diagnosis change say that elements of the disorder mirror that of autism (UPI, 3/21; Stobbe, Associated Press/ABC News, 3/20; Steenhuysen/Chiacu, Reuters, 3/20; Willingham, Forbes, 3/20).


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