Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Strategic Plan - Autism Spectrum Disorders

Photo: Child playing with blocks
Priority: Enhancing the monitoring and tracking of autism and other developmental disabilities and advancing research into the risk factors for these conditions.

What is the Problem?

  • It is estimated that an average of 1 in 110 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That is about 1%.

  • Recent studies have estimated that the lifetime cost to care for an individual with an ASD is $3.2 million.

  • Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with an ASD with an approximate prevalence of 0.6% to over 1%. A recent study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%.

What Do We Know?

  • ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, yet are on average 4 to 5 times more likely to occur in boys than in girls. Studies have shown that about one third of parents of children with an ASD noticed a problem before their child’s first birthday, and 80% saw problems by 24 months of age.

  • There is currently no cure for ASDs. However, research shows that early intervention can greatly improve a child’s development. Early intervention services help children from birth to 3 years of age (36 months) learn important skills and can include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others.

What Can We Do?

CDC is working to find out how many children have ASDs, discover the risk factors and causes, and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms. The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network is a group of programs funded by CDC to determine the number of people with ASDs in the United States. By studying the number of people diagnosed with an ASD over time, we can find out if the number is rising, dropping, or staying the same. We can also compare the number of children with ASDs in different areas of the country and among different groups of people.

The Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) is a multi-year study funded by CDC; it is currently the largest study in the United States to help identify factors that may put children at risk for an ASD. SEED will examine physical and behavioral characteristics of children with ASDs, children with other developmental disabilities, and children without a developmental delay or disability; provide an opportunity to compare health conditions among children with and without ASDs; and investigate factors associated with a child’s risk for developing an ASD.

CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. program educates parents, health care professionals, and early educators about the importance of monitoring a child’s developmental milestones and obtaining early intervention services. The programbuilds on familiar experiences of parents, such as monitoring their child’s physical growth, and expands to social and emotional milestones to educate parents about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, and encourages developmental screening and intervention.

These activities will help us to:

  • Identify significant racial/ethnic disparities in the recognition of ASDs through ongoing monitoring. CDC is working to understand why these disparities exist and increase recognition of early warning signs of ASDs among all families, particularly populations experiencing difficulty accessing care.

  • Understand the risk factors that make a person more likely to develop an ASD, which will help us learn more about the causes.

  • Understand the average age at which children are diagnosed with an ASD. We know that currently this is 4 1/2 years of age, although ASDs can be recognized before the age of 3. Through the Learn the Signs. Act Early. program, CDC is helping professionals and parents learn how to recognize the early warning signs of ASDs and other developmental disabilities so that children receive services as early as possible.

Autism Spectrum Disorders Website

Learn more about autism spectrum disorders.

Graphic: NCBDDD Strategic Plan 2011-2015NCBDDD Strategic Plan 2011-2015

Learn more about NCBDDD’s strategic plan and priorities.



Learn More about Health Insurance Market Place

Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

    1600 Clifton Road
    MS E-87
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC-INFO