A new survey of parents estimates that 1 in 40 children in the United States has autism spectrum disorder. The study was published in the December 2018 issue of the Journal Pediatrics. This number means that the condition was reported in 2.5% of children which amounts to approximately 1.5 million children between the ages of 3 and 17. A previous report estimated the prevalence at 1 in 59 children based on 2014 data, meaning there has been an increase in cases.
The more recent study collected data from the National Survey of Children’s Health which surveyed the parents of more than 50,000 children between the ages of 3 and 17. Only children who received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder were included in the estimate. The numbers are based on parent reporting and not on health or scientific data. Because there is no biological test for autism spectrum disorder, it can be difficult to track.
Access to Care
In addition to a higher prevalence of autism spectrum disorder, parents in the survey were also asked various questions regarding the health of their children. Parents who reported that their child was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder were 44% more likely to report problems obtaining treatment for their child and were 24% less likely to receive help with care coordination than those families dealing with comparable such as ADHD and Down Syndrome. The parents of children with autism spectrum disorder were also 23% more likely to report that they didn’t have a designated team of caregivers for their children.
While there has been some improvement over other surveys, it is clear that there are delays in getting a diagnostic evaluation even after signs of autism have been recognized. There is an urgent need for early diagnosis of the condition and follow up treatment, especially in lower income areas. Developmental and behavioral interventions can be helpful for children with autism spectrum disorder, parents need training and support to help their children succeed.
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