New Autism Prevalence Study Underscores Need for Research, Services, and Supports

February 13, 2007

Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy

SILVER SPRING, MD (February 13, 2007)—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released last week a new study on the prevalence of Autism and related disabilities. According to the recent study, approximately 1 in every 150 American children has a potential diagnosis of Autism, a higher rate than previously reported just a year ago.

This study was based on an in-depth review of medical and school records for children who were eight years of age at multiple sites across the country. Several centers across the AUCD network collaborated with CDC on this important study. It is one of the largest and most intensive studies to date.

As Catherine Rice, one of the lead researchers with CDC's Birth Defects Division, stated, "There's been a lot of concern about what the prevalence of Autism is in the United States and we haven't really had the data systems to answer that completely." The new study expands our knowledge about the explosive growth in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) witnessed over the last few decades.

Clearly, continued research is needed to document trends in the growth of Autism, as well as research into the causes, early identification, and determination of effective interventions for Autism.

Late last year, the President signed into law the Combating Autism Act of 2006, PL 109-416. The Act would authorize an additional $1 billion, primarily for research on Autism through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and CDC. The Act also provided the first step to expand the interdisciplinary training of professionals to identify and support children with ASD and their families. Unfortunately, no money was proposed in the President's recently released FY 2008 Budget to implement the provisions of the Act.

Lu Zeph, Chair of the AUCD Legislative Committee, said, "Hopefully Congress will provide the necessary funds to focus our country's researchers on explaining the apparent increase in prevalence, on finding the causes, and on determining the most effective ways of supporting children and adults with ASD."

George Jesien, Executive Director of AUCD, called for further action when he said, "Additional Congressional and Federal action is needed to address the service and training needs associated with this increasing number of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Greater commitments are clearly needed to expand access to services such as early identification, diagnosis, early intervention, education, family support, and long-term services and supports to better meet the needs of individuals with ASD and their families. The training of a wide range of interdisciplinary professionals also needs to be a top priority so that the findings coming out of our research institutions can be translated and made available to parents and providers across the country as quickly as possible."

AUCD is committed to working with members of Congress, Federal agencies, and advocacy organizations to expand research, training, and services for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families.

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities, located in Silver Spring, MD, is a national, nonprofit organization that promotes and supports the national network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practice through research, education, leadership, and services for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities.