By Sarah Johnson.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is now reported to be diagnosed in 1 out of every 54 children (2020)1. This data has been frequently studied and analyzed over time to have a strong understanding of the diagnosis. In the year 2000, it was reported that 1 in 150 children were diagnosis with ASD (CDC report)2. This would indicate that an ASD diagnosis has increased 178% since 2000. Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States. Many studies have been conducted on the cause behind the increase but the exact reasoning is not yet determined.
When looking at studies behind the reason ASD diagnosis have increased, you’ll likely find that ASD is being better diagnosed and awareness has increased. More children are indeed being scanned for ASD than before (2000). In 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that during routine pediatric visits, all children between 18 and 24 months of age must be screened for autism3. This increased the amount of children being screened for autism, helping children who would’ve gone unnoticed get the proper ASD diagnosis. Specially, children with mild cases of autism that are easy to be missed.
Secondly, awareness on autism has vastly increased over the years. The internet plays a major role in spreading information fast, just like reading articles like this, information is available 24/7. The more knowledge spread on early signs of autism, the faster a child can be diagnosed and seek treatment.
Another reason behind the rise in diagnosis is broadened criteria for an ASD diagnosis. In May 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5, the standard classification of mental disorders, removed the communication deficit from the autism definition, which caused more children to fall under that category. Additionally, the older version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) did not allow children to be diagnosed with both autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The new version, DSM-5, allows for multiple diagnoses and updated the term autism, to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Many doctors believe that the increased prevalence of ASD is due to identifying more cases and awareness but that it may only be a percentage of the reasoning.There simply just isn’t one reason behind the large increase, and studies are actively being done to find more answers. As of now, the important thing to do is stay aware and informed on ASD. To learn more about the screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, visit the CDC website
1 Maenner MJ, Shaw KA, Baio J, et al. Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2016. MMWR Surveill Summ 2020;69 (No. SS-4):1–12. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6904a1external icon.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder, (2000). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html.
3 Susan L. Hyman, Susan E. Levy, Scott M. Myers and COUNCIL ON CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES, SECTION ON DEVELOPMENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRICS
Pediatrics January 2020, 145 (1) e20193447; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-3447