About 1 in 3 autistic children in United States receives no treatment

  • Xu G & al.
  • JAMA Pediatr
  • 3 Dec 2018

  • curated by Emily Willingham, PhD
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • Autism prevalence among US children was 2.79% in 2016.
  • 30% of these children receive no behavioral or medication interventions.

Why this matters

  • Barriers to care exist.
  • Prevalence is quite similar to the 2.47% reported from the National Health Interview Survey data in 2016, as well as the  2.76% reported by the CDC that same year. 
  • It is also close to the 2.5% per parent report in 2016, but higher than the 1.45% time-delayed prevalence reported by the CDC for 2012. 
  • These values all now reflect the 2.64% prevalence identified in a 2011 national, prospective South Korean study of >55,000 children.

Key results

  • Ever-diagnosed autism prevalence was 2.79% (95% CI, 2.46%-3.12%).
  • Current autism diagnosis prevalence was 2.50% (95% CI, 2.21%-2.79%).
  • Regional values range from 1.54% (Texas) to 4.88% (Florida). 
  • 70.5% (95% CI, 65.1%-75.8%) receive some kind of treatment.
  • 43.3% (95% CI, 37.4%-49.2%) get behavioral treatment only (likelier for younger children).
  • 6.9% (95% CI, 3.7%-10.1%) receive medication only (likelier for older children, boys, non-Hispanic black children).
  • 20.3% (95% CI, 16.5%-24.1%) get both.

Study design

  • Data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health for 43,032 children, ages 3-17 (mean, 10.7) years.
  • Outcomes: autism diagnosis, treatment.

Limitations

  • Physician diagnosis parent-reported.
  • Specific therapies not known.

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