Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Font Size

U.S. Autism Estimates Rise by 30 Percent for Kids

Researchers say increase could be due to better diagnosis of the developmental disorder


"We really need to double down on our research into the environmental factors that work in some complex way with a child's genetics to increase the risk of autism," he said.

There also needs to be continued emphasis on earlier diagnosis of autism, added Dr. Melissa Nishawala, an assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine and medical director of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinical and Research Program.

The new CDC study reports that most children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder after age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed as early as age 2.

"We need to push the frontier of diagnosis down to the earliest ages we can," Nishawala said. "The earlier we intervene, the more we can do to help nudge those brain pathways closer and closer to normal."

Autism experts believe the increase reported by the CDC is more likely due to improved detection of the disorder, particularly among children at the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum.

For example, almost half of children identified with autism spectrum disorder in the new study have average or above average intellectual ability, compared to one-third of children a decade ago.

"We are looking much more carefully, and we are getting better at finding kids at both ends of the spectrum, in particular the higher end of the spectrum," Nishawala said.

At the same time, the experts believe there are likely even more kids with autism than reported, given possible flaws in the CDC's surveillance system.

"We feel the way the CDC measures autism misses cases and is under-representing it," Rosanoff said. "This new number doesn't surprise us, but we feel it still may not be an accurate reflection of the true public health challenge."

The CDC network tallies cases that come to the attention of physicians or educators, which then are verified through a comprehensive evaluation and a review of school and medical records. But if the case doesn't attract attention, or if records aren't available to substantiate the diagnosis of autism, then the network will overlook that case, Rosanoff said.

Today on WebMD

girl at window
Symptoms within the first 2 years of a child’s life.
boy playing a violin
How is this condition similar to autism?
Mother and daughter indoors playing
Play therapy may undo the disorder in at-risk babies.
preschool age girl sitting at desk
What causes this rare form of autism?
High Functioning Autism And Asperge Syndrome
Gluten Free Diet Slideshow
Mother and daughter indoors playing
man on bicycle
girl at window
Mother hugging teenage son
Understanding Rett Syndrome
Home Care Tips

WebMD Special Sections