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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Global prevalence of autism has increased twenty- to thirty-fold since the earliest studies 40–50 years ago. Just-published CDC data shows an estimated prevalence of 1 in 68 children affected by an autism spectrum disorder. ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, and is almost five times more common among boys than girls. Tracking and diagnosing ASD can be difficult, since there is no single biological marker, and diagnostic criteria have recently changed. Although signs may appear early in life, many children with ASD do not receive a final diagnosis until they are over the age of 4. This delay means that children with ASD and their families might not get the help they need during the most critical periods of development.

During this session we discussed the challenges of understanding and diagnosing this complex disorder and the opportunities for early identification and screening. This session of Grand Rounds also explored some of the evidence-based interventions that can help individuals with autism make gains in their development.

Beyond the Data

Dr. John Iskander and Jon Baio discuss some of the complex challenges of understanding and diagnosing autism spectrum disorder. Most recent data shows that prevalence estimates have more than doubled and a much larger number of children are being diagnosed, while the median age of first diagnosis remains older than age 4. The greatest potential for long term impact in this area lies in earlier diagnosis, from older than 4 years old to 2 years old, and starting treatment sooner to get maximum benefit.

Presented By

Julie Daniels, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Maternal and Child Health
Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jon Baio, EdS
Epidemiologist Team Lead, Developmental Disabilities Surveillance
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC
Susan L. Hyman, MD
Division Chief, Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Professor of Pediatrics

University of Rochester Medical Center
Samuel L. Odom, PhD
Director, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Facilitated By

John Iskander, MD, MPH
Scientific Director
Phoebe Thorpe, MD, MPH
Deputy Scientific Director
Susan Laird, MSN, RN
Communications Director

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  • Page last reviewed: February 28, 2018
  • Page last updated: February 28, 2018
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Science
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication
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