About 1 in 59 eight -year-old children in 11 communities across the United States were identified as having autism in 2014 as reported by the CDC this week. This report increases the feeling of urgency to ensure that all individuals living with autism receive appropriate services and supports to achieve their optimal outcomes. We still have a long way to go on this front, as adults living with autism have high rates of unemployment, experience limited social engagement with their communities, and do not have access to appropriate services in adulthood.
Autism prevalence has again risen. In addition to the prevalence numbers two interesting outcomes emerged:
- 1. Change in Ethnic Distribution: In the prior report (2012) they identified 20 percent more white children with autism than black children and 50 percent more than Hispanic children. In the most recent CDC report, researchers identified 7 percent more white children with autism than black children, and 22 percent more than Hispanic children. As there is no biologic reason for the disparity in autism diagnosis by ethnicity, this is directionally correct. This finding demonstrates progress in addressing ethnic diversity in autism diagnosis but as current movements like Black Lives Matter have brought to society’s attention, there is significant work to do to ensure the color of one’s skin does not dictate life outcomes. Ethnic disparity is an issue in education as well. Disproportionality in student discipline, graduation rates, and enrollment in special education have all been raised as concerns. This autism prevalence study provides additional data that our society continues to struggle with racism.
- 2. Geographical Distribution: 11 US communities participated in this study and the results show various rates of autism prevalence. Across the multiple monitoring sites, prevalence ranged from a low of 1 in 77 children in Arkansas to a high of 1 in 34 in New Jersey. This disparity is most likely reflective of access to healthcare as well as awareness and understanding of autism. New Jersey is well known for its diagnostic services and supports to those living with autism and other developmental disabilities. However, children should not be excluded from services an supports simply because they were born outside of New Jersey.
Prevalence studies are important. We now have 15 years of prevalence reports from the CDC informing us as a community. Progress is being made. But awareness of the number of people living with autism should prompt action to the development of meaningful supports. Additionally, the adult outcomes for many living with autism are abysmal. We can’t just identify people; we need to identify, support, and ensure every individual living with autism can lead a high-quality life.
So you might be asking what does this mean for me and how can Rethink Ed help?
Every student with autism deserves a quality education; Rethink Ed provides your district the tools to design, deliver, and monitor, evidence-based practices in special education. The comprehensive suite of tools ensures that every student develops the academic, behavioral and social/emotional skills they need to succeed in school, at work, and in life. Rethink Ed can help. To learn more contact firstname.lastname@example.org.