What is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disability which causes significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, the combination of symptoms and their level of severity varies from person to person.

boy

What are the signs & symptoms?

Diagnosis criteria for autism is specific, a person must exhibit the following symptoms to a degree that significantly impairs their daily living:

what_is_autism-communication_b

Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction

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Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities

1:0

children have autism in the US

children have autism
in the US

since 2000,
autism
prevalence has
increased

0%

  • 1 in 150

    0%
  • 1 in 125

    0%
  • 1 in 88

    0%
  • 1 in 68

    0%
  • 1 in 54

    0%
  • 1 in 44

    0%

since 2000,
autism
prevalence has
increased

0%

  • 1 in 150

    0%
  • 1 in 125

    0%
  • 1 in 88

    0%
  • 1 in 68

    0%
  • 1 in 54

    0%
  • 1 in 44

    0%

prevalence

The CDC tracks autism prevalence in the U.S. to better understand the scope and impact autism has upon children, families, and communities. Additionally, service providers and organizations use these findings when preparing to meet the support needs of the families they serve.

This is key information from the CDC's most recent autism prevalence report, as well as answers to some frequently asked questions about autism prevalence.

Current Autism Prevalence in the US

The newly released report by the CDC estimates that 1 in 44 children have autism in the United States, indicating a 241% increase in autism prevalence since 2000 when autism prevalence was 1 in 150.

 

 

Additional findings from the CDC's report show that:

  • Most children are still diagnosed after the age of 4 even though they can be reliably diagnosed by age 2
  • Boys are more than 4 times more likely to be identified with autism than girls
  • While progress has been made to close racial and ethnic gaps in identifying those with autism, disparities still remain:
    • Prevalence rates are similar between white and black children, but significantly lower for Hispanic children
    • Black children with autism are less likely to be evaluated by age 3 than white children, and more likely to go without a diagnosis by 8 years
autism_prevalence_chart-2

FAQs

While the cause of autism remains unclear, current studies show genetics and environment both play a role. The CDC also acknowledges that there are "many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors," which is why they have launched the SEED study to learn more about the risk factors and causes of autism.

No. While it is true that the definition of autism was expanded to include PDD-NOS and Asperger's, the CDC states that:

"It is unclear exactly how much of this increase is due to a broader definition of ASD and better efforts in diagnosis. However, a true increase in the number of people with an ASD cannot be ruled out. We believe the increase in the diagnosis of ASD is likely due to a combination of these factors.

We do know that ASD are more common than we thought before and should be considered an important public health concern. There is still a lot to learn about ASD. In addition, increased concern in the communities, continued demand for services, and reports estimating a prevalence of about 1.7 percent show the need for a coordinated and serious national response to improve the lives of people with ASD.”

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019) Frequently Asked Questions: Is there an ASD Epidemic? Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/topics.html.

The prevalence rate that is considered “official” is the one that is released by the CDC. Other organizations, such as the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), use different methods to collect their data and look at different age groups when determining prevalence rates. This is why their autism prevalence rates differ from the CDC’s.

Prevalence rates are not a census. They do not represent the entire population of children with autism in the United States. They are an estimate based on a sampling of communities throughout the United States.

The CDC calculates autism prevalence based on the following data:

  • Health and special education records of 8-year-old children
  • These records were collected from specific sites located in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The CDC collected the data to determine the current rate back in 2018. It takes the CDC about 4 years to analyze the data and release a new prevalence rate.

reports

The CDC’s website contains a lot of information. Because of this, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to navigate and find what you’re looking for. Who wants to spend hours and hours searching for old reports? We sure don’t! Since we’re fairly confident that we aren’t the only ones who feel this way, we’ve collected and archived all of the CDC’s autism prevalence reports in one, easy-to-find location for you.

Remember, it takes the CDC about four years to analyze data and release a new prevalence rate. Be sure to take the survey versus the reporting year into consideration when searching the reports.

about_autism-money

lifetime social cost

Social costs associated with autism for 1990-2019 are estimated at $7 trillion dollars. If the rate of increase in prevalence continues, costs to society could reach nearly $15 trillion by 2029. These estimates only reflect what society pays, not the additional expenses families incur out of their own pockets.

annual impact of rising prevalence in the societal cost

In 2020, the U.S. autism annual cost is estimated at $223 billion dollars and is projected to rise to $589 billion by 2030.

about_autism_money_bag
what_is_autism-girl_nonspeaking_b

0%

0%

are non-speaking

what_is_autism-gut_issues_d

0x

more likely to suffer from GI issues

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0x

higher odds of unmet healthcare needs

0%

0%

have co-occuring conditions

on average has 4.9

what_is_autism-co-occuring
what_is_autism-wander

0%

0%

to engage in elopement behavior

0x

0x

more likely to die from preventable injuries

what_is_autism-preventable_injuries
what_is_autism-age_72_b

age 0

is the average life expectancy of an individual without autism

what_is_autism-age_36_b

age 0

is the average life expectancy of an individual with autism

0%

0%

of adults with autism have paid jobs in community-based settings

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what_is_autism-live_with_relatives

0%

of adults live with a parent/relative

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0%

of adults live in a group home

what_is_autism-live_independently

0%

of adults live indepedently

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0%

of adults live in an institution

what_is_autism-live_unknown_b

0%

of adults live in an unknown situation

These are all sobering statistics, but there’s hope because...

we can create a brighter future

effective therapy & medical intervention improves the outcome and quality of life

what_is_autism-goals_family_c

Improve Family Life

what_is_autism-goals_health_b

Good Health

what_is_autism-goals_skills_b

Develop Skills

what_is_autism-goals_independence

Attain Independence

what_is_autism-goals_individual

Be a Better Individual

our programs are designed
to meet these goals

Virtual Support & Education Events

TACA offers monthly virtual parent support and family panel meetings where parents can connect with other autism parents...
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Parent Mentorship

For more individualized support, parents can be matched with an experienced and supported TACA Parent Mentor to help...
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Hope & Help for Autism Private Group

TACA’s private Facebook Groupis a well-moderated group for parents/caregivers of an individual with autism...
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Resources

TACA provides in-depth, comprehensive information and resources to help parents navigate all aspects of the autism...
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Chapters

TACA chapters across the US hold meetings, autism learning seminars, coffee talks, and family events...
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Virtual Support Hours via TACA Connect App

Join TACA Support Hours! Each week, TACA Mentors will help families create a plan to connect with resources...
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Conferences

Annually, TACA hosts a parent conference featuring expert speakers from across the United States. Presentations focus...
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Scholarships

TACA provides national or regional scholarships as funding is available to assist in financing functional medicine doctors...
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Southern California Outreach

TACA’s national headquarters office is located in Irvine, California, and has the capacity to provide extended in-person resources...
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