Autism rates have tripled. Is it now more common or are we just better at diagnosis?

  • In Health
  • 2023-01-26 19:46:10Z
  • By TODAY

Autism rates tripled among children in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area from 2000 to 2016, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Pediatrics.

The authors, a team from Rutgers University, calculated the trend by analyzing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates of the number of children who've been identified as having autism spectrum disorder by age 8.

Although there is no medical test for autism, the CDC has established a network of 17 sites across the country that estimate autism rates based on a combination of formal medical diagnoses and records from schools and health care providers.

Nationally, the rise in autism rates has been similar to the trend in New York and New Jersey, according to a 2021 CDC report. One in 54 children had been diagnosed with autism by age 8 in 2016, compared to 1 in 150 in 2000.

Advances in diagnostic capabilities and greater understanding and awareness of autism spectrum disorder seem to be largely driving the increase, the Rutgers researchers said. But there's probably more to the story: Genetic factors, and perhaps some environmental ones, too, might also be contributing to the trend.

Precisely what those other factors are is still unknown, but researchers are at least clear on one fact: Autism has nothing to do with vaccines.

"We know for sure, for so many years now, that vaccines don't cause autism," said Santhosh Girirajan, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University who studies the genetic underpinnings of neurodevelopmental disorders and wasn't involved in the new study.

"On the other hand, what we really don't know is: What are the real, clear environmental factors that you should be avoiding?"

The Rutgers study found that in New York and New Jersey, the share of 8-year-olds diagnosed with autism who don't have intellectual disabilities rose more sharply than the share of those who do - a fivefold increase from 2000 to 2016, compared to a twofold increase.

Marlaina Dreher, Brandon Dreher (David Goldman / AP file)
Marlaina Dreher, Brandon Dreher (David Goldman / AP file)  

That's most likely because doctors have gotten better at identifying cases of autism without intellectual disability - in other words, children with average or above-average IQs who display characteristics of autism, like impaired social skills, repetitive behaviors and difficulty communicating.

Such cases may be less obvious to parents, teachers or doctors than cases among kids with intellectual disabilities, who tend to have a harder time performing daily tasks on their own and are more likely to struggle in the classroom.

The new study also found that although racial disparities in autism diagnoses have narrowed, they persist. Historically, Black and Hispanic children have been diagnosed with autism at lower rates than white children. The new analysis showed that among children without intellectual disabilities, Black children were 30% less likely than white children to be diagnosed with autism. However, the gap has narrowed among children with intellectual disabilities.

"A reduction in disparities has led to increases in autism [rates], but that doesn't mean that the disparities have disappeared," said an author of the new study, Josephine Shenouda, an epidemiologist at Rutgers.

Shenouda and her team recommended that all toddlers be screened for autism during routine checkups at their pediatricians, echoing guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"A lot of major pediatricians in most major areas will have universal screening as part of their developmental surveillance for children during their child-well visits. However, it's not happening consistently, and even when it happens, the follow-through - where the parents are referred to appropriate services - that's also lacking," she said.

She estimated that half of kids in the U.S. are being screened for autism.

But more kids' getting screened and broader criteria for diagnosing autism also create more opportunities for misdiagnoses, Girirajan said. That might further contribute to the rising rates.

"You might see a child and you won't be able to tell if it's ADHD or autism or just mild intellectual disability. And what happens is you need to use more standardized testing to have a uniform way of identifying children who have similar features," he said.

Beyond the improvements in diagnostics, genetic factors could be driving up autism cases on their own, experts said.

Much of the risk of developing autism - around 83%, according to one analysis - comes from inherited genetic factors. Girirajan estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 genes contribute to autism, although just 100 are consistently associated with the disorder.

Megan Krail (LM Otero / AP file)
Megan Krail (LM Otero / AP file)  

A child can inherit risk factors from one or both parents, and older parents carry higher risks of having children with autism.

"We do see trends over time in parents waiting to have children, so certainly some of the increase could be explained by parental age," said Jennifer Durocher, a clinical associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami.

Girirajan said environmental factors, like exposure to air pollution, probably aren't significant contributors, but they could aggravate underlying genetic risks.

2021 study suggested that viral infections in childhood could also be a risk factor for autism in boys, while other studies have hinted at associations between autism and vitamin D deficienciesgut inflammation and exposure to toxic chemicals.

"These are novel, emerging concepts," Girirajan said. "We don't have solid evidence that these are indeed causing autism."

This article originally appeared on

This article was originally published on


More Related News

'Public health crisis': Autism rates rise again, with 1 in 36 children diagnosed

Many factors are likely to contribute to rising autism rates, including that diagnoses among kids of color have been catching up to white children.

Ukraine children held by Russia reunited with parents
Ukraine children held by Russia reunited with parents

Moments after the bus returning him and more than a dozen other children from Russian-held territory arrived in Kyiv, a ten-year-old boy jumped straight into...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • Vqcyqv
    (2023-02-23 10:09:58Z)

    lanoxin 250 mg ca digoxin 250mg oral buy molnupiravir sale

  • Mnhovr
    (2023-02-25 01:42:18Z)

    order acetazolamide 250mg pills acetazolamide 250mg tablet imuran 25mg without prescription

  • Bjaory
    (2023-02-26 16:17:19Z)

    order digoxin pills molnunat us molnupiravir for sale online

  • Vybjoe
    (2023-02-28 18:36:01Z)

    amoxil for sale online order amoxil 1000mg ivermectina 6 mg

  • Dpcjag
    (2023-02-28 21:36:51Z)

    coreg without prescription coreg brand order elavil 10mg generic

  • Teqsgv
    (2023-03-02 05:15:25Z)

    priligy 90mg oral order avana 100mg generic buy motilium 10mg generic

  • Nmrzmo
    (2023-03-02 08:41:27Z)

    fosamax 70mg over the counter generic nitrofurantoin 100 mg order ibuprofen 400mg

  • Ysgqwl
    (2023-03-03 19:29:54Z)

    buy generic indomethacin 50mg generic cenforce 50mg cenforce 50mg ca

  • Xlsavu
    (2023-03-03 22:02:49Z)

    order nortriptyline for sale order paxil 20mg without prescription purchase paroxetine pills

  • Nhzmvh
    (2023-03-05 07:53:48Z)

    cost doxycycline aralen 250mg brand medrol medicine

  • Njtpya
    (2023-03-05 08:54:05Z)

    order generic pepcid buy generic tacrolimus mirtazapine online

  • Bbhldz
    (2023-03-06 20:03:05Z)

    requip 2mg canada labetalol 100 mg pills trandate 100mg without prescription

  • Uechun
    (2023-03-07 09:35:36Z)

    buy tadalafil 20mg without prescription plavix 150mg without prescription order trimox

  • Svhmfn
    (2023-03-08 10:15:34Z)

    brand tricor order sildenafil 100mg order sildenafil 100mg for sale

  • Stzbyh
    (2023-03-08 22:37:19Z)

    buy esomeprazole pill generic clarithromycin 500mg furosemide pill

  • Allomycle
    (2023-03-09 03:52:56Z)

    Obviously, the black shark was afraid that he had already fallen here buy cialis on line

  • Pumqoq
    (2023-03-09 23:32:01Z)

    cialis us Buy generic cialis viagra 100mg without prescription

  • Jitegn
    (2023-03-10 12:22:59Z)

    cheap minocin 100mg order hytrin pills buy hytrin online cheap

  • Vykbtf
    (2023-03-11 19:42:58Z)

    female cialis Cialis discount buy ed meds online

  • Wvctvm
    (2023-03-12 11:30:47Z)

    buy glycomet 1000mg order generic verapamil 240mg nolvadex 10mg brand

  • Xkefds
    (2023-03-13 14:04:31Z)

    buy provigil 200mg without prescription order stromectol 3mg generic promethazine oral

  • Cjessj
    (2023-03-14 08:33:55Z)

    clomiphene brand buy lipitor 80mg generic prednisolone 20mg

  • Pxqcgb
    (2023-03-15 07:36:55Z)

    prednisone 5mg pill order prednisone generic cheap amoxicillin for sale

  • Qebrsh
    (2023-03-16 05:33:05Z)

    buy absorica generic purchase deltasone online ampicillin 500mg over the counter

  • EybvPiogs
    (2023-03-17 07:45:59Z)

    i need help writing an argumentative essay i need help writing an essay can you write my essay

  • Aybajairm
    (2023-03-17 09:05:19Z)

    write my essay please help writing scholarship essays top rated essay writing services

  • Uqbbnf
    (2023-03-17 09:06:31Z)

    order fildena 100mg for sale cost sildenafil 50mg order propecia generic

  • Tcrqzm
    (2023-03-21 10:02:13Z)

    cheap ventolin 4mg buy augmentin 1000mg sale augmentin 375mg canada

  • Bpfxpy
    (2023-03-22 23:50:11Z)

    prednisolone 20mg uk cheap gabapentin generic buy furosemide pills diuretic

  • Qnehstymn
    (2023-03-23 16:27:05Z)

    quality custom essays essay homework help online hire essay writer

  • Jrererorm
    (2023-03-24 09:29:25Z)

    i need help writing a compare and contrast essay help essay 123 essay marking service

  • Arjujairm
    (2023-03-25 04:02:58Z)

    custom essay service toronto help writing an essay for college essay conclusion help

  • Qdestymn
    (2023-03-25 06:32:18Z)

    essay checking service essay title help essay writer cheap


Top News: Health