According to a Rutgers Study, New Jersey’s Autism Rate Has Risen 43 Percent

According to a Rutgers Study, New Jersey’s Autism Rate Has Risen 43 Percent

An April 11 report found that one in 59 children in the United States has autism, and New Jersey has the highest rate of all, with one in 35 4-year-old children having an autism diagnosis.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently released a report in which research from Rutgers University shows a significant increase in the percentage of 4-year-old children that have been diagnosed with autism in New Jersey and around the country. Between 2010 and 2014, Jersey’s autism rate increased 43 percent: one in 35 children have autism in the state compared to a one in 59 national rate. This places Jersey’s rate at 3%, while the national rate is 1.7%. This nearly doubled rate could stem from New Jersey’s excellent clinical and educational services for autism, which could contribute to more accurate or complete diagnosis reporting based on education or healthcare records.

The United States’ autism rates are continuing to rise each year. Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School who directed the New Jersey portion of the study, called this trend “consistent, broad, and startling.”

“It’s very likely that the next time we survey autism among children, the rate will be even higher,” he said.

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While the study’s conclusions are not meant to be representative of the whole country, they do give researchers benchmarks for autism occurrence. Prevalence ranged from 8 in 1,000 children having autism in Missouri to 28 in 1,000 children being diagnosed in New Jersey. The disorder is about twice as common in boys as in girls and white children are more often diagnosed than African-American or Hispanic children.

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The age range of the children participating in the first evaluation varied from 28 months in North Carolina to 39 months in Wisconsin, and the average diagnosis age–53 months–has been constant for 15 years. Zahorodny explained that children who are evaluated and diagnosed earlier have a higher chance of responding better to treatments and therapy, but, unfortunately, only children with severe signs are usually evaluated at a very young age. This can delay less-affected children access to therapies and services.

“Despite our greater awareness, we are not effective yet in early detection,” Zahorodny said. “Our goal should be systematic, universal screenings that pediatricians and other health providers provide at regular visits starting at 18 months to identify autism as soon as possible.”

Factors that contribute to a higher risk of developing autism include higher parental age, maternal illness during pregnancy, genetic mutations, birth before 37 weeks gestation, and multiple births. Researchers still cannot explain why rates have continued to increase across the United States.

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