CDC Releases New Statistics on Autism
At Least 300,000 U.S. Children Diagnosed With Autism as of 2003-2004
WebMD News Archive
May 4, 2006 -- At least 300,000 school-aged U.S. children had ever been
diagnosed with autism as of 2003-2004,
the CDC estimates.
That estimate is based on two national health surveys conducted by the CDC
in 2003-2004. The results appear in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality
The surveys asked parents if their child had ever been diagnosed with
autism. The surveys show that about 5.6 per 1,000 children aged 4-17 years had
a parent-reported autism
The surveys also show that kids with parent-reported diagnosed autism were
more likely than other children to have special health care needs and
"high" levels of emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity, and peer
The CDC describes autism and related conditions as "lifelong
developmental disabilities characterized by repetitive behaviors and social and
'Major Public Health Concern'
"Taken together, all these studies affirm that autism is a condition of
major public health concern that affects many families," Jose Cordero, MD,
MPH, told reporters in a teleconference.
Cordero directs the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental
Cordero says the prevalence rates are within the range of previous
estimates. "The surveys reported today by themselves can't tell us much
about autism's trends," Cordero says.
"We recognize that parents want answers," Cordero says. "They
want to know how to protect their children; what can they do to help them stay
healthy. If children have autism, parents want to know what caused it, the most
effective treatments, and how can they lower their risk if they plan to have
"This is perfectly understandable," Cordero says. "We share the
frustration about not having more answers about the causes and cure of
About the Surveys
The CDC's latest numbers came from the CDC's National Health Interview
Survey (NHIS) and the National Survey of Children's
Participants were parents, but the same parents didn't take both surveys.
The surveys covered various health topics.
One question on both surveys asked, "Has a doctor or health care
provider ever told you that [child's name] has autism?" The NHIS estimates
that 5.7 per 1,000 kids had a parent-reported autism diagnosis. The NSCH had a
similar estimate of 5.5 per 1,000 kids.
The NSCH also showed that nearly 94% of kids with a parent-reported autism
diagnosis had special health care needs, compared with almost 20% of other
Those health care needs included prescription medicines; treatment or
counseling for emotional, developmental, and behavioral problems; special
therapy such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy; limits in the
child's ability to do things done by most children of the same age; and greater
need or use of medical, mental health, or
educational services than usual for most other children of the same age.