A Snapshot of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Tennessee

Download and print this page pdf icon[PDF – 368 KB]

Findings from the Tennessee Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (TN-ADDM) help increase understanding 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.

Tennessee tracking area

1 in 64

or 1.6% of 8-year-old children in an area of Tennessee were identified with ASD by TN-ADDM in 2016

Tennesssee Prevelance

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

White children were 1.4x more likely and black children were 1.6 times more likely

To be identified with ASD than Hispanic children

Values indicate prevelance per 1,000 children. No significant differences in ASD prevalence were found between white and black children.

Values indicate prevalence per 1,000 children. No significant differences in ASD prevalence were found between white and black children.

36% of children

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

bar chart showing 38%

Boys were 4.6x
More likely to be identified with ASD than girls

Tennessee boy vs girls

76% of children

Identified with ASD had a documented ASD diagnosis

bar chart showing 68%

By 51 months

half of children identified with ASD were diagnosed

IQ data available for 77%

Of children identified with ASD by TN-ADDM


What are the key take-away messages in TN?

  • There are many children with ASD who need services and support. The number of children identified with ASD in Tennessee increased from 1 in 68 (1.5%) in 2014 to 1 in 64 (1.6%) in 2016.
  • Children with ASD in Tennessee have a wide range of abilities and challenges (such as 41% with IQ 70 or below).
  • Most children with ASD in Tennessee (64%) are not evaluated prior to 3 years of age.
  • The median age of diagnosis for children in Tennessee was 51 months of age.
  • Hispanic children were less likely to be identified with ASD than black or white children. This may reflect differences related to lack of access to services, socioeconomic status, and cultural factors.

How can this information be useful?

TN-ADDM’s findings can be used to:

  • Inform policies that promote earlier identification of ASD;
  • Plan for the service needs of individuals with ASD and provide trainings related to ASD for healthcare providers and families; and
  • Increase awareness of ASD among traditionally underserved families.

Stakeholders in Tennessee might consider different ways to:

  • Lower the age of first evaluation by community providers.
  • Increase awareness of ASD among Hispanic families and identify and address barriers in order to decrease the age at which all children are evaluated and diagnosed.

How and where was this information collected?

This information is based on the analysis of data collected from the health and special education records of children who were 8 years old and living in one of 11 counties in Middle Tennessee in 2016.

Tracking area
Bedford, Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Marshall, Maury, Montgomery, Rutherford, Robertson, Williamson, and Wilson counties

8-year-old children in tracking area: 25,839

  • 63% white
  • 20% black
  • 14% Hispanic
  • 3% Asian or Pacific Islander


“I use the information from ADDM every time I talk to families and professionals about what we are seeing in our community and across the state of Tennessee. The new TN-ADDM data will allow us to contribute not just to a larger national scientific understanding of the prevalence of ASD, but also to understand the impact of autism in our own backyard, to better equip those working to understand and serve individuals with ASD.”

– Quentin Humberd, MD
Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician
Chair of the Tennessee Governor’s Council
on Autism Spectrum Disorder

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC)
https://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/vkc/external icon

Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorder (TRIAD)
https://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/vkc/triad/home/external icon

Tennessee Disability Pathfinder
https://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/vkc/pathfinder/external icon

Tennessee Early Intervention System

Autism Tennessee
https://autismtennessee.wildapricot.org/external icon

CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early.

Connect with TN-ADDM
Zachary Warren, PhD
110 Magnolia Circle
Nashville, TN 37203