UAHS Researchers Contribute to National CDC Study that Estimates 1 in 68 U.S. Children Having an Autism Spectrum Disorder

In Arizona, the findings were slightly higher, with 1 in 66 of 8-year-old children in Maricopa County identified with ASD.

Researchers from the University of Arizona Health Sciences participated in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that 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 66 of 8-year-old children in Maricopa County identified with ASD.

However, the 2012 findings showed no significant change from 2010 in the percentage of children identified with autism.

Margaret Kurzius-Spencer, PhD, MPH, MS, assistant professor, UA Department of Pediatrics and researcher with the UA Steele Children’s Research Center, and Sydney Pettygrove, PhD, epidemiologist and assistant professor in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, are co-principal Investigators of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (ADDSP), the Arizona site of the CDC Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

Their team reviewed special education and clinical health records of 8-year old children living within 14 school districts in Maricopa County during 2012 to determine the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders and intellectual disabilities in that region.

Key findings:

  • Approximately 1 in 68, or 1.5 percent, of school-aged children were identified with autism, based on tracking in 11 communities across the United States in 2012.
  • According to previous reports, the percentage of children identified with autism increased between 2002 and 2010. 
  • 2012 shows no significant change from 2010 in the percentage of children identified with autism
  • The researchers found that children identified with autism are not receiving comprehensive developmental evaluations as early as they could be.
  • Data also show that black and Hispanic children are less likely to be identified with autism and receive developmental evaluations later than white children.
  • Lastly, the data continue to highlight the vital role that schools play in evaluating and serving children with autism.
  • Complete Arizona findings are available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/documents/community_report_autism_arizona_web.pdf

“The prevalence of autism has increased markedly since the early 2000s, but it is too soon to tell if the prevalence is stabilizing over time,” said Dr. Kurzius-Spencer. “What is known is that there are many children living with autism who need services and support, both now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. More needs to be done to ensure that children are evaluated as soon as possible after developmental concerns are identified.”

“Together, we can make a difference,” said Dr. Pettygrove. “Parents can track their child’s development and act early if they have a concern. Providers can acknowledge and help parents act on those concerns. And those who work with or on behalf of children can join forces to ensure that all children with autism get identified and connected to the services they need as early as possible.”

The Arizona Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (ADDSP) is a joint undertaking with the CDC, the Arizona Department of Education and many other agencies and organizations that serve children with developmental disabilities and their families. The ADDSP has completed the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 surveillance years and will continue to collect data for the 2014 surveillance year. 

About the UA Steele Children’s Research Center
The UA Steele Children’s Research Center is one of the prestigious Centers of Excellence within the UA College of Medicine - Tucson at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. It is the state’s only academic pediatric research center designated by the Arizona Board of Regents, and the only facility in Southern Arizona where researchers and physician-scientists are dedicated to advancing medical knowledge through basic and translational research to improve children’s health. As researchers, they seek to discover answers to children’s medical mysteries. As physician-scientists, they provide compassionate care to hospitalized patients at Banner Children’s at Diamond Children’s Medical Center and pediatric outpatient clinics throughout Tucson and the state. And, as faculty members with the UA Department of Pediatrics, they teach and train the next generation of pediatricians and researchers.

About the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health
Established in 2000, the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona is the first nationally accredited college of public health in the Southwest. Today the college remains the only accredited college of public health in the State of Arizona with campuses in Tucson and Phoenix. The college enrolls more than 1,100 students per year across degree programs at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels.  Through research, education, and community engagement the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health continues to find solutions to public health problems in Arizona, the southwest and globally.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: http://uahs.arizona.edu