Early Identification and Prevalence of Autism Among 4-year-old and 8-year-old Children: An Easy Read Summary

This is an Easy-Read Summary of two reports. The first report is about identifying autism early among 4-year-old children. The second report is on the number of 8-year-old children with autism.

The information in this Easy Read Summary comes from:

  1. Shaw KA, Maenner MJ, Bakian AV, et al. Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 4 Years–Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021
  2. Maenner MJ, Shaw KA, Bakian AV, et al. Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021
  1. What is autism?
    Autism is a developmental disability. Some people with autism have trouble communicating or understanding what other people think or feel. Other people with autism focus on or do the same thing over and over again.
  2. What is CDC?
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a federal government public health agency. CDC answers urgent health questions.
  3. How does CDC study autism?
    • CDC helps track the number of people in certain parts of the United States who have autism. Scientists call this number “prevalence.” Prevalence is a number that says: “Of all the children in a given area, how many are like this?”
    • CDC is working to understand if some children are more likely to have autism than other children.
    • CDC is working to understand if some children are diagnosed or identified with autism earlier than others.
    • CDC is working to understand if there are factors that might put a child at risk for having autism.
    • CDC is working to teach parents and providers what autism looks like, so children with autism are identified and helped as early as possible.
  4. Where did the information for the studies described in this Easy-Read Summary come from?
    The information for these studies came from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, or “ADDM.”
    • ADDM is a program that keeps track of the number of children with autism in different areas of the United States.
    • The information from ADDM helps CDC:
      1. Learn if autism is more common in some groups of children
      2. Identify changes in autism occurrence over time
      3. Compare how common autism is in different areas of the country

Report #1

The following information is about the study described in the report:

Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 4 Years–Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2018.

  1. What was this study about?
    • The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network collects information about the number of 4-year-old children with autism.
    • ADDM collects information from 11 areas in the United States.
    • ADDM gives scientists information about how children with autism are identified at a younger age.
    • ADDM helps scientists understand how many 4-year-old children in the 11 areas were diagnosed with autism.
    ADDM Network collection info
  2. What did this study find?
    Among 4-year-old children in the 11 ADDM areas:
    picture of a girl in school raising her hand
    • For every 59 children living in the 11 ADDM areas, one child had autism.
    • For each one girl with autism, three boys had autism.
    • More Black, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children had autism than White children.
    • For every four 4-year-old children with autism, three had been evaluated for autism by the time they were 3 years old.
    • Children born in 2014 were more likely to be identified with autism by the time they were 4 years old compared to children born in 2010.
    • More children living in lower income neighborhoods had autism than those living in higher income neighborhoods. Lower income neighborhoods are neighborhoods where people make less money from their jobs.
  3. Why are these findings important?
    The earlier a child can be identified with autism, the sooner the child can receive services and support. These services can help the child develop important skills as they become teens and adults.

Report #2

The following information is about the study described in the report:

Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 YearsADDM Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2018

  1. What was this study about?
    • This study is about the number of 8-year-old children in 11 different areas of the United States who have autism.
    report 2 graphic
  2. What did this study find?
    Among 8-year-old children living in the 11 ADDM areas:
    for each 1 girl found to have autism 4 boys were found to have autism
    • For every 44 children, one child had autism. This was a little more than what was found in earlier studies (1 in every 54 children had autism in the previous study).
    • More American Indian and Alaska Native children had autism than White children.
    • More White and Black children had autism than Hispanic children.
    • More Black children with autism also had an intellectual disability than White and Hispanic children with autism.
    • More Boys than Girls had autism.
  3. Why are these findings important?
    These findings will help CDC determine if autism is more common in some groups more than others and at what age it is detected within these groups of people. This information can also help CDC find new and better ways to support these children