This growing awareness of the disorder has led to an increase in information and support available to parents. So what are the latest autism statistics?
Who is Affected
Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) has prepared a summary of the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and reports that approximately 1 million people in the US have autism. About 1 in 150 children is diagnosed with autism. Because boys are diagnosed more often than girls, that translates to 1 in 94 males.
Every 20 minutes, a new case of autism is diagnosed; about 24,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. In the state of California, about 7 out of 10 children diagnosed with autism are under 14 years old.
Economic Impact and Funding
The economic impact of autism is estimated at more than $90 billion and is expected to more than double over the next decade. It is the fastest-growing developmental disability in America.
How does the rate of diagnosis affect funding? In the late 1990s, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) allocated just $5 million in autism research. Today, the NIH funding for autism, which affects 1 in 150, is $15 million. By comparison, leukemia, which occurs in 1 in 25, 000 children, receives $300 million in research funds. Muscular dystrophy, which affects 1 in 20,000, receives $160 million; cystic fibrosis, which affects 1 in 5,000, receives $75 million; and juvenile diabetes, which affects 1 in 500, receives $140 million.
According to David Kirby, author of Evidence of Harm, in the 1980’s, 1 to 2 per 10,000 children in the US was diagnosed with autism. This number increased to 20 per 10,000 in the late 1990’s. In 2000, the number increased to 40 in 10,000, and in 2004, increased again to 60 in 10,000.
Cause of Increase is Subject of Debate
Researchers are unclear about whether this increase is due to an actual increase in cases or to better diagnosis. An argument against the increasing accuracy of diagnosis is that Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and mental retardation diagnosis rates have remained the same.
Regardless of the reason for the increase in numbers, cases of autism in the US are on the rise, and funding for research appears not to have kept up with this increase. CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding notes that “”Our estimates are becoming better and more consistent, though we can’t yet tell if there is a true increase in [autism spectrum disorders] or if the changes are the result of our better studies. We do know, however, that these disorders are affecting too many children.”