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Autism Speaks renews call for significant increase in funding for research and services to support the 2.3% of U.S. children wit

Autism Speaks renews call for significant increase in funding for research and services to support the 2.3% of U.S. children with autism spectrum disorder

CDC estimate on autism prevalence increases to 1 in 44 children in the U.S.

PR Newswire

PRINCETON, N.J., Dec. 2, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released today its biennial update of autism's estimated prevalence among the nation's children, based on the active surveillance across 11 monitoring sites in the United States for 8-year-old and 4-year-old children in 2018. The new report shows an increase in prevalence with 1 in 44 children or about 2.3% of 8-year-old children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2018.

This 24% increase in prevalence shows progress in awareness and advocacy for early identification and diagnosis but also reiterates the need for a significant increase in funding for autism research and services to be provided throughout the lifespan.

Key findings include:

  • One in 44 children or about 2.3% of 8-year-old children in the U.S. was diagnosed with ASD in 2018, a nearly 24% percent increase over 2016 when the estimate was 1 in 54.
  • While the CDC report found no difference in the overall prevalence rates by race and ethnicity, the prevalence of ASD among Hispanic children was lower compared to the White or Black children in multiple sites. This finding indicates barriers in ASD diagnosis for Hispanic children.
  • Further, Black children with ASD were more likely to have lower IQ scores compared to White or Hispanic children. This indicates that only more severe forms of ASD are being identified among Black children compared to White children and points to existing disparities and barriers.
  • For the first time, the 8-year-old report estimated the prevalence of ASD among American Indian/Alaskan Native population. The prevalence of ASD was estimated to be 29 per 1,000 children.
  • Boys are four times as likely to be diagnosed as girls, holding steady from previous reports. This indicates the need for more research to understand the gap in prevalence and ensure girls on the spectrum are receiving the care they need.
  • Significant differences remain in the frequency of autism diagnosis between the CDC's monitoring sites. These range from a low of 1 in 60 in Missouri to a high of 1 in 26 in California. This may be due to how autism is diagnosed and documented in different communities.

With these findings, Autism Speaks renews its call for Congress and executive branch agencies to make additional investments in research and services that address critical community issues, such as racial and ethnic disparities, co-occurring medical conditions, and challenges across the lifespan. The overall investment in autism research falls behind the recommendations of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), the advisory committee that coordinates federal efforts around autism. This shortfall must be addressed, with new resources going to the CDC and its Autism Developmental Disability Monitoring (ADDM) network, the National Institutes of Health, and the Health Resources and Services Administration, among others.

"With 2.3% of children in the U.S. diagnosed with autism, this report validates our rallying cry for a significant increase in funding to provide more support and ensure that they are provided the services needed from early intervention to adult transition and throughout the entire lifespan," said Autism Speaks President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Wargo. "Our continued efforts in advocacy and research are aimed to create a world where all people with autism can reach their full potential." 

To learn more about Autism Speaks, visit To join the conversation, find @autismspeaks on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. For personalized support and questions, contact the Autism Response Team at 1-888-AUTISM2, en Español at 1-888-772-9050 or by email at  

About Autism 

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, and each person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges. A combination of genetic and environmental factors influences the development of autism, and autism often is accompanied by medical issues such as GI disorders, seizures and sleep disturbances. Autism affects an estimated 1 in 44 children. 

About Autism Speaks 

Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. To find resources, join an event or make a donation, go to Learn more by following @autismspeaks on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.  

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SOURCE Autism Speaks

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