Increase in Autism Diagnoses in the United States Attributed to Better Screening
Increase in Autism Diagnoses in the United States Attributed to Better Screening

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more children in the United States are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) due to better screening. The report shows that 1 in 36 children, or over 2.7% of 8-year-old children, were diagnosed with ASD in 2020, an increase from previous years. The report also shows that children of African descent (not of Hispanic origin), Asians, and Pacific Islanders have the highest occurrence rates.

The increase in autism diagnoses is due, in part, to better screening and diagnosis methods. Autism screening plays a crucial role in identifying children who may exhibit signs or symptoms of ASD, allowing for early diagnosis and treatment. At 18 and 24 months of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests a series of standardized autism screening tests in addition to developmental surveillance, as early intervention has been shown to lead to better outcomes.

The CDC’s report highlights the impact of improved screening methods on the increased number of autism diagnoses. One widely used screening tool is the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), which helps identify children who may require further evaluation for developmental delay and/or autism.

Such standardized screening tools have contributed to the early detection of ASD, enabling timely access to support services and interventions. However, disparities still exist in autism screening and diagnosis. For instance, research has shown that African American/Non-hispanic children are less likely to undergo autism screening than their Caucasian peers.

Addressing these gaps is crucial to ensure all children have equal access to early detection and intervention services. Early intervention is vital for children with autism, as it can significantly improve their long-term outcomes regarding communication, social skills, and overall quality of life. Interventions may include applied behavior analysis (ABA), a teaching approach that aims to improve social, communication, and learning skills through structured sessions lasting more than a year. The earlier a child with autism receives these interventions, the better their chances of achieving their full potential.

While the increase in autism diagnoses may seem alarming, it is imperative to note that it is not necessarily bad. Early diagnosis and intervention can lead to better outcomes for children with autism. Children with autism can get the skills and abilities necessary to live more independently and productively if they receive early intervention.

However, the uptick in autism diagnoses highlights the need for more resources and support for families affected by autism. Families with children with autism often face significant challenges, including finding appropriate services and support. Communities must come together to support families affected by autism and to advocate for more resources and support.

In addition to better screening and diagnosis methods, other factors may contribute to increased autism diagnoses. For example, some believe that a possible cause for the rise includes shifts in diagnostic criteria. Regardless of the reason, it is clear that autism is a growing issue in the United States. Policymakers, healthcare providers, and communities need to work together to address this issue and provide the resources and support families affected by autism need.

We need to do more than simply improve screening methods; we need to tackle the more substantial problems that families face. As part of this mission, we must work toward ensuring all children, regardless of their family’s socioeconomic status, have access to the services they need to thrive by offering appropriate resources and support to families as they navigate the maze of autism diagnosis and treatment.

The increasing rate of autism diagnoses in the United States, as highlighted by the CDC report, underscores the importance of continued improvements in screening methods and addressing disparities in access to diagnostic services. As we explore the impact of cultural differences on autism diagnoses and strive to ensure equitable identification of ASD across diverse populations, it is crucial to consider the broader implications of these findings on early intervention and support services.

Furthermore, the setbacks in early detection due to the COVID-19 pandemic emphasize the need for ongoing research and innovation in screening tools and processes. By examining these interconnected aspects of autism diagnosis, we can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by children with autism and their families and work towards a future where timely diagnosis and support are accessible to all.

The Illinois Autism Center is committed to addressing the growing issue of autism by providing families with the resources and support they need to thrive. Their evidence-based interventions, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), are designed to improve social, communication, and learning skills in children with autism.

By collaborating with experts, investing in innovative technologies, and advocating for equitable access to early detection and intervention services, the Illinois Autism Center is making a significant impact on the lives of families affected by autism.