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How Many Children Have Autism? Spotlight on Autism Statistics

written by: sharscott • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 4/27/2011

Each year the numbers seem to be exploding. How many people are affected by autism worldwide? This article examines some of the compelling autism statistics and how they are impacting our global community.

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    Autism Statistics

    There is growing evidence that the rate of children diagnosed with autism has been rising steadily and speedily. However, despite the volumes of data that have been accumulated on the disorder, there has been no worldwide outcry for countries to collaborate on research and increase funding to find the cause(s) and a cure. Here are some autism statistics that experts in the field have been gathering over the last few decades.

    • In his 2009 article, Autism Statistics, Dr. Arthur Schoenstadt states experts estimate that 2 to 6 children out of 1,000 will have autism in the coming years. The impact on education, families, and the healthcare system will be staggering. Autism is considered a lifelong disability. As these children grow they will require continued long-term care as adults. The costs to the world will go well into the billions.
    • 1 in 166 children in the U.S. have autism. The rate worldwide is 1 in 158 children under six years of age. Some experts place the rate at 1 in 110. Less than thirty years ago only 1 in 10,000 children were diagnosed with autism. It was considered a rare neurodevelopment disorder. Now autism is the 6th most common disability in the U.S.
    • 10% of autistic kids have an identifiable, genetic, neurological, or metabolic disorder which contributed to their autism (Fragile X, Down syndrome). The other 90% don't. That is a frightening figure. Until researchers are able to identify with certainty the major cause(s) of autism, the medical community is only able to treat the symptoms and not the disease itself.
    • Males are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than females. Visit any school with autism special education classes and it is immediately evident that autism occurs in higher rates of boys than girls. Researchers are trying to find out why boys seem to be targeted by this specific disorder as with ADD and ADHD.
    • According to the CDC, studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have found that 0.6 to 1% of their population is comprised of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This is clearly a worldwide epidemic. Nearly every continent in the world has identified persons with autism. The Autism Council in Australia revealed that 17 children are diagnosed each week with this devastating disorder. Given such troubling numbers, the question remains: how many people are affected by autism worldwide?
    • 40% of autistic children do not speak. 25-30% of them had some words before age 2 but lost them. Without the ability to effectively communicate their wants and needs, many autistic children are isolated not only from their families, but also from the world around them.
    • Most children with autism were diagnosed between 4.5 and 5.5 years of age. However, more than half of them had developmental concerns that had been recorded by age 3. This is a troubling statistic. Research has shown that early intervention is key to treating autism. How much more progress might some of these children have made if they had begun intervention at 2 or 3 years of age?
    • 1/3 of autistic children had parents who voiced concerns before the child's first birthday. 80% of parents noticed or reported developmental issues by 24 mos. The seeming lag between recorded parental concerns and receiving a formal diagnosis raises cause for concern. Parents are clearly in the forefront in recognizing the signs of the disorder. What steps must be taken to get health practitioners up to speed as well?

    From any viewpoint autism remains a mysterious, frightening condition. Parents and caregivers are desperately in need of answers to as to what is the cause of autism. Although the United States has been leading the charge in research, autism is a worldwide disability which needs a worldwide solution. These autism statistics demonstrate that for all that is known about the condition, there is still much more to learn.

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    Sources:

    Schoenstadt, Arthur M.D., Autism Statistics, http://autism.emedtv.com/autism/autism-statistics.html, January 16, 2009 (accessed 04/2011)

    Autism Spectrum Disorder Data and Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov May 13, 2010 based on research done by Catherine Rice, PhD, Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC, 1600 Clifton Road, N.E., MS E-86, Atlanta, GA 30333. Telephone: 404-498-3860; Fax: 404-498-3550; E-mail: crice@cdc.gov (accessed 04/2011)

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