A Snapshot of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Arizona

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Findings from the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (ADDSP) help us to understand more about the number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the characteristics of those children, and the age at which they are first evaluated and diagnosed.

Map of Arizona

1 in 63

or 1.6% of 8-year-old children in an area of Arizona were identified with ASD by ADDSP in 2016

Chart showing prevalence in Arizona

This percentage is lower than the average percentage identified with ASD (1.85%) in 2016 in all communities in the United States where CDC tracked ASD in 2016.

White children were 1.5x more likely

To be identified with ASD than Hispanic or black children

Bar chart showing White children 1.5x more likely

Values indicate prevalence per 1,000 children

38% of children

Identified with ASD received a Comprehensive Developmental Evaluation by age 3 years

bar chart showing 38%

Boys were 4.2x

More likely to be identified with ASD than girls

Icons showing 4.2x

68% of children

Identified with ASD had a documented ASD diagnosis

bar chart showing 68%

By 57 months
half of children identified with ASD were diagnosed
IQ data available for 91%

Of children identified with ASD by ADDSP

Pie chart showing IQ data

What are the key take-away messages?
  • More children with average or above-average intelligence are being identified with ASD since ADDSP began tracking in 2000.
  • White children were more likely to be identified with ASD than black or Hispanic children. This may reflect cultural or socioeconomic and/or differences in access to diagnostic and therapeutic services.
  • Although Hispanic children are less likely to be identified with ASD compared to non-Hispanic children in Arizona, this difference has been decreasing over the years.
  • Differences between the percentage of boys and girls identified with ASD continue; a better understanding of sex differences may also lead to the development of more effective screening tools for ASD in boys and girls.
How can this information be useful?

ADDSP’s latest findings can be used to

  • Promote early identification of ASD;
  • Plan for the service needs of individuals with ASD and provide trainings related to ASD for healthcare providers and families;
  • Guide ASD research;
  • Inform policies that promote improved outcomes in health care and education for individuals with ASD;
  • Identify cultural, educational, and economic barriers to decreasing the age of evaluation and diagnosis;
  • Improve screening tools to increase accuracy of the screening test result for ASD;
  • Improve collaborations across the ASD community among providers, researchers, and families; and
  • Increase awareness of associated behavioral, cognitive, and/or physical features in children with autism.
Where was this information collected?

Information was collected from health and education records of children who were 8 years old and living in part of Maricopa County in metropolitan Phoenix in 2016.

8-year-old children in tracking area: 17,656

  • 45% white
  • 7% black
  • 41% Hispanic
  • 4% Asian or Pacific Islander
  • 3% other
What else does ADDSP do?

ADDSP collaborates with the Arizona Department of Health Services and investigators from the University of Arizona to track the percentage and characteristics of 4-year-olds and 8-year-olds with ASD and/or intellectual disability. ADDSP also provides extensive ASD- and developmental disabilities-related outreach and training of students, parents, educators, and clinicians. Further, ADDSP data help guide ASD research in the public health community.


“CDC’s ADDM Network provides a crucial understanding of the characteristics about the growing number of individuals identified with ASD in multiple areas of the United States. The information obtained by the Network has provided the data necessary to create collaborations with different providers who address the needs of the autism community across their lifespan.”

– JENNIFER ANDREWS, PhD, University of Arizona

Arizona Autism Coalition
www.azautism.orgexternal icon

Arizona Early Intervention Program
https://des.az.gov/services/disabilities/developmental-infantexternal icon

AZ Find
www.azed.gov/special-education/az-find/external icon

AZA United
www.azaunited.org/external icon

CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early.
Megan Wills
Arizona’s Act Early Ambassador

Raising Special Kids
www.raisingspecialkids.org/external icon

Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC)
www.autismcenter.org/external icon

Autism Society of Southern Arizona

Connect with ADDSP
Sydney Pettygrove, PhD
Margaret Kurzius-Spencer, PhD
Univ. of Arizona Health Sciences Center