Child Autism Rate Jumps to 1 in 65 in Arkansas

KNWA/FOX 24 — A new CDC report shows one in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) - a 30% increase from previous numbers - but in Arkansas the rate jump is even higher.

Across the state, the new one in 65 rate was determined by Arkansas Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (AR ADDM) Program of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).  It's the first update to numbers since 2002 and was included in the national data released.

The 2002 count estimated that one in 145 Arkansas children were identified with autism - a 55% increase.

This newest estimate is based on the CDC’s evaluation of health and educational records of all 8-year-old children in 11 states: Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Utah and New Jersey.

The incidence of autism ranged from a low of 1 in 175 children in Alabama to a high of 1 in 45 in New Jersey, according to the CDC.

Children with autism continue to be overwhelmingly male. According to the new report, the CDC estimates 1 in 42 boys have autism, 4.5 times as many as girls (1 in 189).

The largest increase was seen in children who have average or above-average intellectual ability, according to the CDC. The study found nearly half of children with an autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability — an IQ above 85 — compared with one-third of children a decade ago.

More than 5,300 children are represented in the data contained in the new report, she says.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that children are still being diagnosed late. According to the report, the average age of diagnosis is still over age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed by age 2.

The new national and state reports are based on 2010 data, when the children were 8 years old (born in 2002). 

Since 2000, the CDC has based its autism estimates on surveillance reports from its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

Every two years, researchers count how many 8-year-olds have autism in about a dozen communities across the nation. (The number of sites ranges from six to 14 over the years, depending on the available funding in a given year.)

In 2000 and 2002, the autism estimate was about 1 in 150 children. Two years later 1 in 125 8-year-olds was believed to have autism. In 2006, the number grew to 1 in 110, and then the number went up to 1 in 88 based on 2008 data.

The University of Arkansas of Medical Sciences says based on the data, "Arkansas already is taking action to allocate increased funding for autism services, reviewing curriculum changes to meet the needs of students with autism, offering a graduate level autism curriculum for students seeking a master’s degree in special education and certification in behavioral analysis. The state also is engaged in initiatives to improve screening for autism and support for parents, educators, law enforcement and mental health professionals."

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