Changes in autism spectrum disorder prevalence in 4 areas of the United States

Catherine Rice, Joyce Nicholas, Jon Baio, Sydney Pettygrove, Li Ching Lee, Kim Van Naarden Braun, Nancy Doernberg, Chris Cunniff, Craig Newschaffer, F. John Meaney, Jane Charles, Anita Washington, Lydia King, Maria Kolotos, Kristen Mancilla, Cynthia A. Mervis, Laura Carpenter, Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Background: We sought to describe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) population characteristics and changes in identified prevalence across 3 time periods. Methods: Children with a potential ASD were identified through records abstraction at multiple sources with clinician review based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR) criteria. Multisite, population-based data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network were analyzed from areas of Arizona (AZ), Georgia (GA), Maryland (MD), and South Carolina (SC). Participants were 8-year-old children (born in 1992, 1994, or 1996) in 2000, 2002, or 2004 (and children born in 1988 residing in metropolitan Atlanta in 1996) who had been evaluated for a variety of developmental concerns at education and/or health sources. Results: From 2000 to 2004, the identified prevalence of the ASDs per 1,000 8-year-old children showed significant increases of 38% in GA and 72% in MD and a nonsignificant increase of 26% in AZ. ASD prevalence was relatively stable in SC with a nonsignificant decrease of 17%. Males had a higher identified prevalence of ASD in all years. Increases among racial, ethnic, and cognitive functioning subgroups varied by site and surveillance year. More children were classified with an ASD by community professionals over time, except in AZ. Conclusions: There was a trend toward increase in identified ASD prevalence among 8-year-old children who met the surveillance case definition in 3 of the 4 study sites from 2000 to 2004. Some of the observed increases are due to improved ascertainment; however, a true increase in ASD symptoms cannot be ruled out. These data confirm that the prevalence of ASDs is undergoing significant change in some areas of the United States and that ASDs continue to be of urgent public health concern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-201
Number of pages16
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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