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Ever wondered how they come up with Autism Prevalence Numbers?

Autism Prevalence Numbers

The Autism Prevalence Numbers are shocking every other year when they are released. We always think that Autism numbers couldn’t get any higher, that they could not increase anymore. Yet we are always proven wrong.


I use to be extremely emotional over it. As my son has aged I have become exceedingly detached to it emotionally and more preoccupied with it mentally. I have always wondered how exactly they come up with those numbers. When I first found out I was somewhat taken aback by it, their methods are nothing like I thought they would be. Well, see for yourself.

The ADDM Network:
October 17, 2000 President Clinton signed the Children’s Health Act of 2000 into law--the intent of said act is to help further understand the scope of Autism in our country. With this in place the CDC was able to start up a “network” to better monitor and understand autism; they call it the “Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring [ADDM] Network”. ADDM was and is a very exciting step towards understanding how the autism prevalence is growing; even if being monitored isn’t exactly your “cup of tea”. ADDM is the only collaboration intent on not only tracking the characteristics of autism, but, the numbers as well. Both things that all parents of autistic children have to agree are important.

ADDM has been performing population based surveillance every other year for Autism in the states listed below since 2000. Furthermore, they’ve been releasing prevalence numbers to the nation and to the parents of autistic children and adults since 2007 [when their first report was published]. At that time the number suggested that the national autism prevalence sat at about 1 in 150; the parents that sat there and watched them announce those first findings surely cannot forget the shock and sadness that washed over us. My son had just been diagnosed at this point, the same year actually. I remember crying when I heard.

Prevalence findings by the ADDM over the last 7 years:
-2014—1 in 68 Children Identified (Based on 2010 Data)
-2012—1 in 88 Children Identified (Based on 2008 Data)
-2009—1 in 110 Children Identified (Based on 2006 Data)
-2007—1 in 150 Children Identified (Based on 2002 Data)

According to the CDC these numbers show that since 2002, when they started taking data, the autism prevalence has risen 123%. Quite an incredible increase in percentage by any standards. It’s actually enough to steal one’s breath. No one could have imagined that there would be that large of an increase.

How do they come up with the Autism Prevalence numbers?

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The way these prevalence numbers are calculated is not the way most would expect them to be, not how I expected them to be by any means. Most people [me included] seem to think that the data is taken from all over the U.S. and averaged out, or split into categories and then analyzed. The ADDM Network simplifies that process and still predicts prevalence numbers. Each person has a different stance on their belief in the reliability of the findings.

ADDM has sat up “Monitoring Stations”, as the CDC refers to them, across 14 states as of 2014. These serve as monitoring posts for autism activity in that particular area; they focus on 8 year old children diagnosed with autism.

Locations of ADDM “Monitoring Stations”:
- Alabama
- Arizona
- Arkansas
- Colorado
- Florida
- Maryland
- Missouri
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Pennsylvania
- South Carolina
- Utah
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin

ADDM not only gathers information about autism prevalence numbers, but has also been able to bring several key points to the forefront.

Things the ADDM network has brought to our attention:
-The knowledge that white children have a higher autism prevalence rate than black or Hispanic children.
-The prevalence in white children in 1 in 63, while in Black children and Asian kids it is more like 1 in 81 and Hispanic children 1 in 93.
-The prevalence is higher in boys (1 in 39) than in girls (1 in 181)
-46% of children identified as having autism actually have average to above average IQ’s.

This network has also been able to give a reliable projection of how many school age ASD children are in special education classes and/or actually diagnosed by a physician (80%) something that we all need to know, parents and schools alike.

In Conclusion:
Some parents will be excited to hear that there is such a network put into place and some will find a conspiracy theory wrapped up in it somewhere. I find myself somewhere in the middle. Where ever you stand in your support of ADDM all parents of disabled children realized, even before the professionals did, that this was fast becoming an (dare the word be used) epidemic and that a closer eye needed to be kept on the families living with autism in order to find the answers of how to treat it; here’s the Government’s answer to that, in a way it seems.

Reference: CDC - Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network