Geraldine Dawson, director of Duke University’s Center for Autism and Brain Development, said the new estimate is similar to one found in research based on screening a large population of children rather than on those already diagnosed. As such, she said it may be closer to reflecting the true state of autism in U.S. children than earlier estimates.
The CDC reports are based on data from counties and other communities in Georgia and 10 other states — some with more urban neighborhoods, where autism rates tend to be higher. In Georgia, the CDC used data from two counties in the metro Atlanta area. The rates are estimates and don’t necessarily reflect the entire U.S. situation, the authors said.
Autism rates varied widely — from 1 in 26 in California, where services are plentiful, to 1 in 60 in Missouri and 1 in 45 in Georgia.
Overall, autism prevalence was similar across racial and ethnic lines, but rates were higher among Black children in two sites, Maryland and Minnesota. Until recently, U.S. data showed prevalence among white children was higher.
At a third site, Utah, rates were higher among children from lower-income families than those from wealthier families, reversing a longstanding trend, said report co-author Amanda Bakian, a University of Utah researcher who oversees the CDC’s autism surveillance in that state.
Bakian said that likely reflects more coverage for autism services by Medicaid and private health insurers.
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