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Notice to Readers: Autism Awareness Month --- April 2005

April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism spectrum disorders are lifelong developmental disabilities characterized by unusual social and communication development and the presence of unusual or repetitive behaviors and interests (1). These conditions affect as many as 2--6 per 1,000 children in the United States (2,3), making autism a serious public health concern. Children with autism identified early and enrolled in early intervention programs show significant improvements in their language, cognitive, social, and motor skills, as well as in their future educational placement (4,5). In collaboration with a coalition of partners, CDC recently launched a public awareness campaign, "Learn the Signs. Act Early." to educate parents about early childhood development, including potential early warning signs of autism and other developmental disabilities.

To track rates and trends in autism and conduct epidemiologic studies, CDC funds monitoring programs in 18 states and supports five Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE). The CADDRE centers are conducting a large-scale, epidemiologic case-control study of autism to examine potential risk factors. Additional information about autism activities is available at or


  1. American Psychiatric Association. Criteria for the Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, text revision (DSM-IV TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.
  2. Yeargin-Allsopp M, Rice C, Karapurkar T, Doernberg N, Boyle C, Murphy C. Prevalence of Autism in a US metropolitan area. JAMA 2003;289:49--55.
  3. Bertrand J, Mars A, Boyle C, Bove F, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Decoufle P. Prevalence of autism in a United States population. Pediatrics 2001;108:1155--61.
  4. National Research Council. Educating children with autism: Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001.
  5. Dawson G, Osterling J. Early intervention in autism. In: Guralnick MJ, ed. The effectiveness of early intervention. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes; 1997.

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