The rate of autism is becoming increasingly more common in children. Is this also the case for adults?

In a 2023 study, published in the journal Pediatrics, scientists from Rutgers University looked at autism rates in children up to age 8. They found that in 2000, the rate of autism in children was 1 in 150. In 2016, it was 1 in 54. As this study showed, the rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children tripled in just over 15 years.

Whether it’s due to better diagnostic tools, environmental factors, genetics or a combination of these things, the Rutgers study confirmed that the rate of ASD is going nowhere but up.

But is the same increase in ASD true in adults? The simple answer is, probably.

The reason we don’t have a more definitive answer is that before 2020, there was no formal surveillance of ASD rates in adults. The first study to look at ASD in adults in terms of numbers, which was conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that more than 5.4 American adults 18 and older have ASD. That’s more than 2 percent of the population and close to the rate in kids uncovered by the 2023 study published in Pediatrics. In fact, the 2020 CDC study looked at the data from the early 2000s and recognized that the children diagnosed 23 years ago are now transitioning into adulthood. The study also acknowledged that there is currently no reliable way to assess the rate of ASD in adults.

Diagnosing individuals with ASD as early in their lives as possible is important to ensure they get the support they need. Whether someone is diagnosed with ASD at 18 months or 18 years, we can provide the services to help that individual reach their full potential. 

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