UA Researchers Contribute to National CDC Study Estimating 1 in 68 Children in U.S. Identified as Having an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Researchers from the University of Arizona participated in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that now estimates that 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on tracking across multiple areas of the nation.

In Arizona, the findings were slightly higher, with 1 in 64 children in Maricopa County identified with ASD.

The report, “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2010,” provides autism prevalence estimates from 11 areas. It was published yesterday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The UA team reviewed the records of more than 33,000 8-year-old children in Maricopa County to determine the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities in that region.

Highlights from the Arizona-specific study (complete Arizona findings available at ):

•    Boys were 4 times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls.
o    1 in 40 boys was identified with ASD.
o    1 in 167 girls was identified with ASD.

•    White and black children were more likely to be identified with ASD than Hispanic children.
o    1 in 53 white children was identified with ASD.
o    1 in 61 black children was identified with ASD.
o    1 in 94 Hispanic children was identified with ASD.
o    1 in 52 Asian or Pacific Islander children was identified with ASD.

•    Thirty-six percent of children identified with ASD were evaluated for developmental concerns by the time they were 3 years old.

“Our goal is to reach a point where we can intervene with caregivers and pediatricians and give them information about how better to diagnose children in the early stages of autism and perhaps improve their outcomes,” said Chris Cunniff, MD, one of the co-principal investigators of the Arizona study.

The UA researchers include:

Christopher Cunniff, MD, pediatric geneticist and professor, UA Department of Pediatrics and UA Steele Children’s Research Center


Margaret Kurzius-Spencer, PhD, MPH, MS, assistant professor, UA Department of Pediatrics



Sydney Pettygrove, PhD, epidemiologist and associate professor, with the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health



Sydney Rice, MD, developmental and behavioral pediatrician and associate professor with the UA Department of Pediatrics