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How many people have autism?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1% of the world’s population has autism spectrum disorder – over 75,000,000 people. That may be a large number, but autism spectrum disorder (ASD) features a wide range of symptoms and levels of severity. It doesn’t present in every child the same way.

If you were to ask the question, ‘How many people have autism?’ thirty years ago, you would have received a much different answer than what’s included in the CDC’s recent statistics. There are several reasons why more children are diagnosed with autism today than in the past:

How Many People Are Affected by ASD?

A division of the CDC, Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring, published a report stating that one in 54 U.S. children has autism. While the number has steadily increased over the years, that does not mean more people are developing the disorder, just that doctors are able to diagnose more accurately.

Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls, and about one in six children were diagnosed with some form of developmental disability such as:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Blindness
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Intellectual disabilities

Changes to Diagnostic Criteria for ASD

Over the last three decades, the diagnostic criteria for autism has changed several times. This is problematic because as the criteria widens to include more symptoms and situations, the rates of diagnosis have gone up. This leads people to believe the disorder is growing instead of simply getting the proper recognition. 

In 1980, autism diagnosis rates were approximately four in 10,000. In the 90s, that number jumped to one in 2,500, while later in the decade one in 1,000 children were diagnosed. With the numbers now at one in 54 children being diagnosed on the spectrum, it’s easy to misunderstand these findings as the exponential growth of the disorder instead of the broadening of diagnosis. 

For years, Asperger’s syndrome was not included in ASD, nor was pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). Both are now potentially being included and collapsed under the term autism spectrum disorder in the Global Diagnostic Manual

At Therapeutic Pathways, our goal is to help children and young adults with autism develop the skills for a well-rounded and satisfying life. To discuss available treatment options, call us at (209) 422-3280 or contact us for more information.


Diagnosing ASD

Unlike other disorders, ASD can be difficult to diagnose because there are no genetic or other standalone medical tests for diagnosis. Instead, doctors or medical providers look to the child’s developmental and behavioral history.

It’s possible to detect signs of autism as early as 18 months or younger. This is because ASD affects the way children develop and interact with the world. They do not develop at the same pace as their peers, which may cause frustration. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to seek medical attention from an early age.

Some of the early signs of autism include:

  • Limited or no eye contact
  • Few or no smiles or facial expressions
  • Limited sharing of sounds
  • Not looking at objects being pointed to
  • Not speaking until an age later than is typical 

Research demonstrates that early intervention can improve a child’s development and future independence. This is because a child’s brain is more malleable at a younger age. Therefore, treatments have a greater chance of being effective and long-lasting.

As a data-driven and science-backed organization, Therapeutic Pathways offers effective early intervention, evidence-based autism treatment for individuals. Our programs follow the most recent and evidence-based treatment available to help improve your child’s quality of life. We care about children and their families at Therapeutic Pathways; for more information on our programs and treatment, call us at (209) 422-3280.