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Announcements: Autism Awareness Month --- April 2011

April is Autism Awareness Month. CDC's most recent report from the 11 sites that make up the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network identified 2,757 children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in a total population of 308,038 children aged 8 years, indicating a prevalence of approximately one in 110 (or 1% of children) (1). ASDs are a group of developmental disabilities characterized by atypical development in socialization, communication, and behavior. The symptoms of ASDs typically are present before age 3 years and often are accompanied by abnormalities in cognitive functioning, learning, attention, and sensory processing (1,2).

Efforts are needed to understand how complex genetic and environmental factors interact to result in the manifestations that make up the autism spectrum. In addition to differences in ASD prevalence by race/ethnicity, sex, and cognitive functioning, potential risk factors (e.g., variations by urban and rural area, sociodemographic status, perinatal complications, and parental age) also need further study. ADDM data are being analyzed to better understand the roles of these and other factors. Studies such as the Study to Explore Early Development, a CDC-funded study examining various risk factors for ASD, are being conducted and are necessary to test hypotheses more fully.

CDC also is working with caregiver and professional groups through the "Learn the Signs. Act Early" health education program to improve early identification of ASDs and other developmental disabilities (3). CDC has resources and information for health-care providers, including information on screening tools and free educational materials to give to patients. These resources are available at http://www.cdc.gov/actearly. Additional information about autism and CDC's activities is available at http://www.cdc.gov/autism.

References

  1. CDC. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders---Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, United States, 2006. MMWR 2009;58(No. SS-10).
  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. CDC. Learn the signs. Act early. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2006. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/actearly. Accessed March 23, 2011.

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