Using the most recent national data from the 2016 National Survey of Children's Health, a nationally-representative survey of 50,212 children focused on the health and well-being of children aged 0-17 years, researchers from the Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard, Drexel, and George Washington Universities estimated that parents of 1 in 40 U.S. children reported their child had autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The study, "The Prevalence of Parent-Reported Autism Spectrum Disorder among US Children," appears in the December 2018 issue of Pediatrics. This estimate is higher than in some other published studies. However, the authors note that differences in published estimates of ASD prevalence likely reflect the fact that studies have used different sampling methods, focused on different age ranges and have been conducted during different time frames.
The researchers also report that 27 percent of U.S. children with ASD took medication for ASD-related symptoms and 64 percent received behavioral treatment. However, they also found that parents of children with ASD were 44 percent more likely to report problems getting mental health treatment (versus children with other emotional, behavioral or developmental disorders), 23 percent less likely to report their child having a medical home and 24 percent less likely to receive help with care coordination.
The authors conclude that their findings show that children with ASD face many challenges, including gaining needed access to a variety of treatment options, and that they particularly need referrals and care coordination to improve their long-term outcomes.