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ASD Research Prevalence


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Prevalence in Canada

Autism Society Canada's Statement on Latest Estimated Prevalence Rates of ASD — June 2014

According to the latest estimates (March 2014) of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) 1 in every 68 children is born with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This results in approximately 515,000 Canadians living with an ASD. This figure does not account for the numerous family members and caregivers whose lives are impacted by autism.

"New data from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network show that the estimated number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to rise, and the picture of ASD in communities has changed. This new data can be used to promote early identification, plan for training and service needs, guide research, and inform policy so that children with ASD and their families get the help they need. CDC will continue tracking the changing number and characteristics of children with ASD, researching what puts children at risk for ASD, and promoting early identification, the most powerful tool we have now for making a difference in the lives of children. Learn the 10 things you need to know about CDC's latest ADDM Network report.

In May 2013 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) completed the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5). The DSM is the standard reference for diagnosing mental illness and disabilities in North America, and was last fully revised in 1994. The latest version introduces a new diagnostic category called Autism Spectrum Disorder that replaces the previous diagnoses of Autistic Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, and PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).

A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder recognizes individuals with a wide range of needs, strengths and challenges. People on the autism spectrum depend on lifelong supports and services.It is the hope of ASC that the updated prevalence rates and changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) will provide a better basis for expanded access to supports and services that will result in better outcomes for those on the ASD Spectrum.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also referred to as autism, is a neurological disorder which affects the way the brain functions, resulting in difficulties with communication and social interaction, and unusual patterns of behavior, activities and interests. Autism Society Canada actively advocates for services and support for individuals living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), their families and their communities. Autism Society Canada's mission is to work with our many partners to address the national priorities facing the Autism Community. Autism Society Canada is the largest collective voice for autism in Canada.

Autism Society Canada / Société canadienne de l'autisme

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At present there is no federal government monitoring system in place to provide us with accurate statistics on the prevalence of ASDs in Canada even though we do know that ASD is the most common form of any neurological disorder or severe developmental disability of childhood.

In the past two years, Health Canada has been partnering to begin conducting surveillance for ASDs within their current epidemiological surveillance systems. There are a number of differences across provincial and territorial health care systems (in how ASDs are diagnosed and recorded) that make this research challenging. Autism Society Canada continues to stress the importance and urgency of developing such monitoring.

Canadian Prevalence Studies

Some interesting epidemiological research studies are underway in Canada. Directed by Hélène Ouellette-Kuntz, the National Epidemiologic Database for the Study of Autism in Canada (NEDSAC) was established in 2001 as part of the Autism Spectrum Disorders–Canadian-American Research Consortium.  The database was established as a way to track the number of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in different regions of Canada.  ASDs tracked currently include autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Aspergers.

A March 2012 NEDSAC report documents changes in prevalence in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Southeastern Ontario. These documents are available at the NEDSAC website at (under Publications and Reports) or click on the links below.

Findings from the National Epidemiologic Database for the Study of Autism in Canada (NEDSAC): Changes in the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and Southeastern Ontario: Key Findings [PDF]

Findings from the National Epidemiologic Database for the Study of Autism in Canada (NEDSAC): Changes in the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and Southeastern Ontario: Full Report [PDF]. 

Prevalence of autism in Canada
Autism is now recognized as the most common neurological disorder affecting children and one of the most common developmental disabilities.


Prevalence in the United States

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data from multiple communities in the U.S. in 2012 reporting that the prevalence rate of ASD in the United States was 1 in 88 based on combined data from fourteen monitoring sites between 2000–2008.

Through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) and the Centers of Excellence for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE), the CDC is continuing to fund prevalence studies on children with ASD in other parts of the country. Through this network, states are currently beginning new or improving existing surveillance mechanisms. The ADDM Network is producing comparable, population-based estimates of the prevalence rates of ASDs in different sites over time.

Autism Spectrum Disorders. What should you know? Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, United States.

New data show 1 in 110 children have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, United States, 2006.

Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders --- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, United States, 2006.

U.S. Autism Prevalence Rises to 1 in 110. Carin Yavorcik, Autism Society of America, December 24, 2009: CDC Report Highlights Increased Prevalence, Continued Delay in Identification as Critical Public Health Crisis affecting American Families.



Last Updated on Saturday, 21 June 2014 15:04  
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