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CDC Reports 5.4M Adults in United States Live with Autism Spectrum Disorder

May 11, 2020 by Iris Dawn Tabangcora

To fill in the gap for the lack of information and surveillance system, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted its first US survey of autism in adults. The survey revealed that as many as 5.4 million (2.2%) adults in the US aged 18 and above live with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This translates to about 1 in 45 American adults.

ASD is a developmental disability with varying challenges in the social, communication, and behavioral aspects. Currently, no intervention has proven to be curative and these adults need various services and support to maximize their ability to function and assume roles in the community.

Furthermore, CDC reports that the prevalence ranged from 1.97% in Louisiana to 2.42% in Massachusetts. Consistent with data in school-aged children, prevalence in adults was found to be higher in men at 3.62% than in women at 0.86%.

Autism Spectrum Disorder
Photo Credit: Ryoji Iwata

As of this time, it is a challenge to come up with an empirical study on the prevalence of ASD in adults. There are no psychometrically validated studies as of this writing. Methods used in children would yield doubtful results. In this survey, CDC projected the values from the estimates of autism in children, a survey that the authority regularly does. Therefore, values may be above or below 2.2%.

Findings from this survey provide an insight into the prevalence of ASD in adults living in the US. It also promotes the need for the states to come up with services that would help these people.

Currently, the CDC is working to plan for the service needs of these adults. Through Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, CDC tracks 16-year-olds who have been identified with ASD by age 8. Planning for transition in special education services as well as other services after high school is guided by this plan.

The CDC's Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) also tracks children identified with ASD in the mid-2000s as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. They aim to identify the factors that would affect the outcome of transition among these adults.

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