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The editors at Social Work Degree Guide decided to research the topic of:
A Common Diagnosis? Autism Prevalence Compared
1 in 88 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. While this number may seem alarming to some, it is fairly low compared to the number of those diagnosed with other conditions such as asthma, ADHD and diabetes. Let's explore how prevalent autism really is and why it's not as common as you might think.
What is Autism?
Here is a quick summary of the disorder and its characteristics.
- Definition: Autism is a range of neurodevelopment disorders that manifests as social impairments, communication problems and repetitive, compulsive behaviors.
- Early signs: No babbling as a baby, poor eye contact, little responsiveness.
- Later signs: Impaired social abilities, inability to conduct conversations, repetitive use of language, abnormal patterns of interest or focus.
Prevalence of Autism in the U.S.
- 1 in 88: Children in the U.S. diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder
- 1 in 54: Boys diagnosed with autism
- 1 in 252: Girls diagnosed with autism
Diagnosis by year
Whether due to lifestyle changes or simply increased awareness, more and more children are being classified as having an autism spectrum disorder.
- 2000 - 1 in 150 children
- 2002 - 1 in 150 children
- 2004 - 1 in 125 children
- 2006 - 1 in 110 children
- Today - 1 in 88 children
Medical costs for a child with autism are, on average, as much as six times higher than for those without autism.
- $10,709: Average annual cost for a child with autism
- $1,812: Average annual cost for a child without autism
- $3.5 million - $5 million: Estimated lifetime cost of caring for one child with autism
- $90 billion: Estimated annual national cost of autism care
How Do They Compare?
While statistics on autism have many parents monitoring their children more closely, many other conditions are much more prevalent and potentially more destructive.
Prevalence and cost
- Prevalence: 1 in 12 people
- Economic annual costs: $50.1 billion
- Prevalence: 1 in 11 children
- Economic annual cost: Between $36 billion and $52 billion
- Prevalence: 1 in 5 people
- Economic annual cost: $14.5 billion
- Prevalence: 1 in 3 adults
- Economic annual cost: $147 billion
- Prevalence: 1 in 6 children
- Economic annual cost: $51.2 billion
- Prevalence: 1 in 9 adults
- Economic annual cost: $245 billion
Rate of change
Here is a look at the growth or reduction in developmental disabilities among children 13 to 17.Disability - Percent change, 1997-2008
- Any developmental disability - +17.1%
- ADHD - +33%
- Autism - +289.5%
- Blind/unable to see at all - +18.2%
- Moderate to profound hearing loss - -30.9%
- Learning disability - +5.5%
- Intellectual disability - -1.5%
- Seizures, past 12 months - +9.1%
- Stuttered or stammered, past 12 months - +3.1%
- Other developmental delay - +24.7%
Though autism is a serious and life-altering condition, people can live with the disorder and many, through intensive behavioral interventions, can learn to function in society. People with other disorders, however, are not so lucky. Here are the mortality rates for some other disorders.
- Asthma: 3,404 annual deaths
- Allergies: 700 annual deaths
- Obesity: 300,000 annual deaths
- Diabetes: 231,404 annual deaths
Autism and ADHD
ADHD and autism do share some common genetic factors and many symptoms regarding hyperactive, repetitive behaviors - even a link to certain psychiatric disorders. However, ADHD is a much more common diagnosis among children. Here are some side-by-side statistics.
- Percentage of school-aged children diagnosed
- ADHD: 9.5%
- Autism: 1%
- Total number of diagnoses in the U.S.
- ADHD: 5.4 million
- Autism: 1.5 million
- Increase in frequency of diagnosis in recent years
- ADHD: 22%
- Autism: 17%