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Latest CDC numbers reflect better understanding of autism; racial and gender disparities persist.
“These numbers are in line with our expectations based on previous studies showing that autistic people represent between 1 and 3% of the population,” said ASAN President Ari Ne’eman. “The CDC numbers show that while we are gradually improving diagnosis and identification of autistic people, significant disparities persist. African-American and Hispanic autistic children continue to go under-diagnosed, as do women and girls on the spectrum.”
According to the latest CDC data, approximately 1 in every 68 children in the United states is on the autism spectrum. However, vast diagnostic disparities exist–boys were 4-5 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls, with a prevalence rate of 1 in 42 for boys compared to a rate of 1 in 189 girls. In addition, girls who received an ASD diagnosis were more likely than boys to have been identified as having an additional disability, implying that less obvious cases were being missed. This data supports previous studies which showed gender disparities in diagnosis to be largely a problem of identification, as opposed to indicative of lower occurrence.
Nor were diagnostic disparities restricted to gender. White children were approximately 30% more likely to be identified with ASD than black children and were almost 50% more likely to be identified with ASD than Hispanic children. Children of color, when diagnosed, were more likely to be identified as having additional disabilities. These alarming disparities indicate that while improvements in diagnosing autism have been made for some populations, considerable efforts are still needed to make diagnosis and services available to all.
“This disparity data highlights the need for serious action to ensure progress in autism diagnosis and services is available to all, regardless of diagnosis or gender,” said ASAN’s Director of Programs, Julia Bascom. She went on to add, “The lack of any data on adults represents a serious gap in CDC’s efforts. When the United Kingdom conducted an adult prevalence study, it found the same rate of autism in adults as children, helping to debunk public hysteria over a so-called ‘autism epidemic’.”
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for Autistic people. ASAN’s supporters include Autistic adults and youth, cross-disability advocates, and non-autistic family members, professionals, educators and friends. Its activities include public policy advocacy, community engagement to encourage inclusion and respect for neurodiversity, leadership trainings, cross-disability advocacy, and the development of Autistic cultural activities.
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