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 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.