Posted on Apr 11, 2019, 10 p.m.
In just four years the prevalence of a 4 year old being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in New Jersey jumped up 43%; the prevalence rate of ASD has be determined to be 1 in 35 according to a new report from the CDC and Rutgers University.
The new report has found that 1 in 59 children has autism, with New Jersey having the highest rate of 1 in 35; this puts the national rate of ASD to 1.7% of the childhood population, and New Jersey at a rate of 3%.
Well known for its excellent clinical and educational services for ASD, New Jersey’s higher rates may be reflected in more accurate and/or complete reporting. Similar studies have been conducted in Wisconsin, Utah, North Carolina, Missouri, Colorado, and Arizona.
Results have been called “consistent, broad, and startling” by Professor Walter Zahorodny of Rutgers University as this analysis of young children shows that the American autism rates are continuing to rise without hitting a plateau. “It is very likely next time we survey autism among children the rates will be even higher.”
Information was analyzed from the health and special education records of 129,354 four year old children between 2010-14 and 128,655 eight year old children in the same time frame; guidelines were used from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders-IV.
Prevalence was found to range from a low of 8 per 1,000 children in Missouri to a high of 28 per 1,000 children in New Jersey, with the average being 13 per 1,000 children, and the disorder being 2 times more common among boys and white children. Findings are not representative of the nation as a whole, but are still considered to be the benchmarks of the prevalence of ASD.
Children received their first evaluation ranging from 28 months in North Carolina to 39 months in Wisconsin, however the average age of diagnosis at 53 months has not changed in 15 years, and children with an intellectual disability or other conditions were found to be more likely to be evaluated earlier than at 4 years of age which gives them an advantage.
“Children who are evaluated early around their second birthday often respond better to therapy treatments than those who are diagnosed later. However it appears only the most seriously affected are being evaluated at the crucial time which can delay access to treatment and special services” explains Zahorodny. “Despite our greater awareness, we are not effective yet in early detection. Our goal should be systematic, universal screening that pediatricians and other health providers provide at regular visits starting at 18 months to identify autism as soon as possible.”
Study results, nor the researchers were able to explain why ASD rates have continued to increase across the nation; factors associated with higher risks include advanced parental age of 30+, maternal illness during pregnancy, genetic mutations, birth before reaching 37 weeks of gestation, and multiple births.
“These are true influences exerting an effect, but they are not enough to explain the high rate of autism prevalence,” says Zahorodny. “There are still undefined environmental risks that contribute to this significant increase, factors that could affect a child in its development in utero or related to birth complications or to the newborn period. We need more research into non-genetic triggers for autism.”
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