A study published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics found some rather grim statistics when they surveyed American parents; one in 40 children has autism spectrum disorder. At a rate of 2.5 percent (or 1.5 million kids ages 3 to 17), that’s a significant jump to the 1.7 percent the CDC reported this year (based on 2014 data).

“The new study is based on the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, which was conducted by the US Census Bureau and which collected information from parents of more than 50,000 children up to age 17. To be included in the estimate, parents would have had to report that their child had ever received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and that they currently had the condition.

The new numbers were also slightly lower than those in the 2017 National Health Interview Survey. It estimated that 2.76% of children had ever received such a diagnosis, which the authors of the new report note is a broader definition.”1


Thomas Frazier, chief science officer of the advocacy organization Autism Speaks, believes that studies like the one published on Monday “use methods that are a bit more liberal and inclusive than the CDC’s methods,”2 but he also believes that the CDC’s numbers are “likely a bit conservative.”3


And yes, the new study relies on parental reporting but why on earth would these parents lie about their children or the fact that they had received a diagnosis or autism spectrum disorder? (Seems like maybe researchers just don’t like to think that the prevalence of the disorder is, in fact, going up.)


(Parents from the study also reported more difficulties getting the health care their children needed.)

In the new study:4

  • more than a quarter of children with autism spectrum disorder were taking medication for symptoms related to the condition,
  • nearly two-thirds have received “behavioral treatments” in the past year
  • and there was a higher prevalence for autism spectrum disorder among certain groups such as boys, children of single mothers and households below the federal poverty level, compared with those at least four times above that income threshold

The report comes as estimated prevalences of the disorder have been rising for decades.


  1. CNN
  2. CNN
  3. CNN
  4. CNN