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Autism Prevalence Worsens: 1 in 68 Children Suffer in U.S.

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released new data showing a continued increase in autism prevalence rates: 1 in every 68 American children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls). In New Jersey, 1 in every 45 children has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the highest rate in the CDC study.

"The continued increase in children affected by autism--a deeply disturbing 30 percent rise from the previous figures of 1-88 children--shows the magnitude of the problem. When the number was 1 in 88, we were devastated. Now the new surveillance data suggests this crisis has worsened, an ominous trend," said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) founded and co-chairs the bipartisan Coalition on Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E.). "The bottom line: more children, more families are struggling with autism and the federal government must do more to help."

"We have to continue the work to determine the cause of ASD, identify autistic children as early as possible to begin treatment, and press ahead with research, new therapies and effective services. The quality of life of many children is at stake, as it is with young adults who age out of the support services in educational systems."

Today, Rep. Smith participated in a press conference with ASD advocates to draw attention to the numbers, and the children and families behind the statistics who are struggling to find answers and support in dealing with autism's impact. Autism is increasing at epidemic proportions and while better diagnosis is a factor in the increase, there are many contributing factors that are less understood.

The new statistics, derived from 2010 data and based on 11 monitoring sites, show that the children identified with ASD varied among communities, and the number of children identified in New Jersey is the highest of the studied sites. The other studied states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin. The previous study used 2008 data.

"Obviously, my home state of New Jersey shows one of the worst rates in the country," Smith said. "But behind every statistic and study are real children and families. This latest data is disturbing but clear. The need for federal, state and local action is great."

"The CDC results are more evidence, if any is necessary, that the prevalence of autism Spectrum Disorders is greater than we thought just a few years ago," Congressman Doyle said. "These results emphasize just how important it is that the federal government increase our investments in research on autism spectrum disorders -- along with services to diagnose and treat individuals with autism and help them and their families. That's why it is critical that Congress enact legislation reauthorizing the Combating Autism Act, and we are working together to introduce such legislation soon."

Smith is the author of the 2011 law,The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA)-- (now Public Law 112-32) enacted on September 30, 2011. CARA authorized autism-related programs for fiscal years 2012, 2013 and 2014 and included: $22 million for the Developmental Disabilities Surveillance and Research Program; $48 million for Autism Education, Early Detection, and Intervention, and; $161 million for hundreds of Research Grants at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and for the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

It was almost 17 years ago, on September 13, 1997, Bobbie and Billy Gallagher, of Brick, N.J. residents with two small children with autism, walked into Smith's office looking for help. The Gallaghers brought a focus to the issue of autism and the needs of autistic children that was missing at the federal level. Armed with data and their own research, they helped win approval of a landmark federal study and the enactment of legislation in 2000--theAutism Statistics, Surveillance, Research and Epidemiology Act (Title I, P.L. 106-310)--which created the first comprehensive federal program to combat autism.

"Behind each of these numbers is a person living with autism," said Liz Feld, President of Autism Speaks. "Autism is a pressing public health crisis that must be prioritized at the national level. We need a comprehensive strategy that includes the research community, policymakers, educators, and caregivers coming together to address our community's needs across the lifespan."

"The increase in the autism prevalence rate is no real surprise to us. While in the next few days, many will discuss the reasons behind this new rate, all of us involved at the Autism Society of America and with our 106 local and state affiliate partners will continue to assist and help the over 3,000,000 people have been diagnosed with autism. Knowing the rate is important, but more important is that our nation be responsive to the daily needs of each person impacted by autism," said Scott Badesch, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America. "While money is directed at researching causes of autism, we need to have a national commitment to help those who live with autism today. Our national commitment to such an effort is lacking and until all agree that commitment will be a priority, we will continue to deny access to the American dream for those living with autism."

The study will be published tomorrow in CDC's weekly publication, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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