Objectives: The developmental disabilities questions in the 2014 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) were changed from previous years, including question reordering and a new approach to asking about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This report examines survey-based estimates of the lifetime prevalence of ASD, intellectual disability (ID), and any other developmental delay (other DD) following the inclusion of a standalone ASD question, the inclusion of specific diagnoses in the ASD question, and the ASD question preceding the other DD question, and compares them with estimates from previous years.
Methods: In NHIS, one child is randomly selected from each family to be the subject of detailed questions on health conditions, functional limitations, and health care utilization. Parents are asked if a doctor or health professional had ever told them that their child had each of a series of developmental disabilities. Prevalence estimates of ASD, ID, and other DD for children aged 3–17 years were calculated using data collected in 2011–2014.
Results: The estimated prevalence of ASD based on 2014 data was 2.24%, a significant increase from the estimated annualized prevalence of 1.25% based on 2011–2013 data. In contrast, the prevalence of other DD declined significantly from 4.84% based on 2011–2013 data to 3.57% based on 2014 data. The prevalence of ID did not significantly change from 2011–2013 (1.27%) to 2014 (1.10%). The prevalence of having any of the three conditions was constant across survey years.
Conclusions: The revised question ordering and new approach to asking about developmental disabilities in the 2014 NHIS likely affected the prevalence estimates of these conditions. In previous years, it is likely that some parents of children diagnosed with ASD reported this developmental disability as other DD instead of, or in addition to, ASD. Following these changes, the 2014 ASD estimate was more similar to ASD prevalence estimates from other sources.
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