Problem/condition: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Period covered: 2012.
Description of system: The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network is an active surveillance system that provides estimates of the prevalence and characteristics of ASD among children aged 8 years whose parents or guardians reside in 11 ADDM Network sites in the United States (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin). Surveillance to determine ASD case status is conducted in two phases. The first phase consists of screening and abstracting comprehensive evaluations performed by professional service providers in the community. Data sources identified for record review are categorized as either 1) education source type, including developmental evaluations to determine eligibility for special education services or 2) health care source type, including diagnostic and developmental evaluations. The second phase involves the review of all abstracted evaluations by trained clinicians to determine ASD surveillance case status. A child meets the surveillance case definition for ASD if one or more comprehensive evaluations of that child completed by a qualified professional describes behaviors that are consistent with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision diagnostic criteria for any of the following conditions: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (including atypical autism), or Asperger disorder. This report provides ASD prevalence estimates for children aged 8 years living in catchment areas of the ADDM Network sites in 2012, overall and stratified by sex, race/ethnicity, and the type of source records (education and health records versus health records only). In addition, this report describes the proportion of children with ASD with a score consistent with intellectual disability on a standardized intellectual ability test, the age at which the earliest known comprehensive evaluation was performed, the proportion of children with a previous ASD diagnosis, the specific type of ASD diagnosis, and any special education eligibility classification.
Results: For 2012, the combined estimated prevalence of ASD among the 11 ADDM Network sites was 14.6 per 1,000 (one in 68) children aged 8 years. Estimated prevalence was significantly higher among boys aged 8 years (23.6 per 1,000) than among girls aged 8 years (5.3 per 1,000). Estimated ASD prevalence was significantly higher among non-Hispanic white children aged 8 years (15.5 per 1,000) compared with non-Hispanic black children (13.2 per 1,000), and Hispanic (10.1 per 1,000) children aged 8 years. Estimated prevalence varied widely among the 11 ADDM Network sites, ranging from 8.2 per 1,000 children aged 8 years (in the area of the Maryland site where only health care records were reviewed) to 24.6 per 1,000 children aged 8 years (in New Jersey, where both education and health care records were reviewed). Estimated prevalence was higher in surveillance sites where education records and health records were reviewed compared with sites where health records only were reviewed (17.1 per 1,000 and 10.7 per 1,000 children aged 8 years, respectively; p<0.05). Among children identified with ASD by the ADDM Network, 82% had a previous ASD diagnosis or educational classification; this did not vary by sex or between non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black children. A lower percentage of Hispanic children (78%) had a previous ASD diagnosis or classification compared with non-Hispanic white children (82%) and with non-Hispanic black children (84%). The median age at earliest known comprehensive evaluation was 40 months, and 43% of children had received an earliest known comprehensive evaluation by age 36 months. The percentage of children with an earliest known comprehensive evaluation by age 36 months was similar for boys and girls, but was higher for non-Hispanic white children (45%) compared with non-Hispanic black children (40%) and Hispanic children (39%).
Interpretation: Overall estimated ASD prevalence was 14.6 per 1,000 children aged 8 years in the ADDM Network sites in 2012. The higher estimated prevalence among sites that reviewed both education and health records suggests the role of special education systems in providing comprehensive evaluations and services to children with developmental disabilities. Disparities by race/ethnicity in estimated ASD prevalence, particularly for Hispanic children, as well as disparities in the age of earliest comprehensive evaluation and presence of a previous ASD diagnosis or classification, suggest that access to treatment and services might be lacking or delayed for some children.
Public health action: The ADDM Network will continue to monitor the prevalence and characteristics of ASD among children aged 8 years living in selected sites across the United States. Recommendations from the ADDM Network include enhancing strategies to 1) lower the age of first evaluation of ASD by community providers in accordance with the Healthy People 2020 goal that children with ASD are evaluated by age 36 months and begin receiving community-based support and services by age 48 months; 2) reduce disparities by race/ethnicity in identified ASD prevalence, the age of first comprehensive evaluation, and presence of a previous ASD diagnosis or classification; and 3) assess the effect on ASD prevalence of the revised ASD diagnostic criteria published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.