FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 27, 2014
Mark Salley, Communications Director
CDC data show continued increase in autism
DENVER – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today released data from its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network showing the number of children identified with autism spectrum disorders continues to increase. The data are based on information collected from 11 sites in the nation for children who were 8 years old in 2010. Colorado is among those sites. In Colorado, data are provided to the monitoring network from the seven-county Denver metropolitan area (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties).
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. A "spectrum disorder," means it affects each person in different ways and can range from very mild to severe. People with this condition share similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction, but there are differences in the onset of symptoms, their severity and the exact nature of the symptoms.
The national data show one out of 68 children (14.7 per 1,000) in the monitoring areas have an autism spectrum disorder, although prevalence estimates varied widely across the 11 sites. The new national estimate reflects an increase of approximately three 8-year-old children per 1,000 or a 30 percent increase in two years.
The Colorado monitoring project also found a 32 percent increase in two years when the same geographic area was compared. One in 101 children aged 8 years in the seven-county Denver metropolitan area (9.9 per 1,000) had an autism spectrum disorder in 2010, compared to one in 133 (7.5 per 1,000) in 2008.
Dr. Tista Ghosh, director of the Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and principal investigator of the Colorado Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring project, said, “We don’t know how much of this increase reflects better awareness and identification or a true increase in a child’s risk of having autism spectrum disorder. These data show there continues to be a need to find answers and provide help for all people living with autism spectrum disorder.”
The causes of autism spectrum disorder are not well understood. Colorado is one of six states participating in the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED), funded by the CDC. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, JFK Partners at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health are conducting the research in Colorado.
“The purpose of the SEED study is to identify factors that cause autism spectrum disorder and common characteristics and health conditions for children with this condition,” said Cordelia Robinson, director of JFK Partners, and principal investigator of the SEED study and co-principal investigator of the Colorado Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring project.
Research shows the earlier a child with autism is identified and connected to services, the better. In Colorado, however, only 41 percent of the children with autism spectrum disorder who were 8 years old in 2010 received an in-depth developmental evaluation before they were 3 years old.
“While all children develop at their own pace, it is important parents track their child’s development, and take action if they have a concern,” Dr. Ghosh said. CDC has free resources that make it easier for parents to follow their child’s development. Free checklists are available on its website, www.cdc.gov/milestones. “If parents have a concern about how their child plays, learns, speaks, acts or moves, it’s important they do something. They can talk with their child’s doctor or call Early Intervention Colorado at 1-888-777-4041 or their local school district for an assessment.”