Past, Present, and Future Impact of SEED

A school age girl working with a teacher

CDC recognizes April as Autism Acceptance Month. We are highlighting the work we’ve done through CDC’s Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) and what we’ve learned about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) so far. Join the nationwide effort to raise awareness and promote acceptance of ASD and its impact on children and families.

CDC’s Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) is the largest study in the United States to help us learn more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in preschool-aged children, including risk factors and what signs to look for. SEED has now been expanded to learn more about the health, functioning, and needs of children with ASD and other developmental disabilities as they mature.

A young boy playing with a stuffed animail
Who Participated in SEED?
  • Children 2 – 5 years of age were enrolled
  • > 8000 total participants
  • > 2000 children with ASD including:
    • 81% males with ASD
    • 19% females with ASD
  • > 3000 children with other developmental disabilities
  • > 3000 children from the general population

What Have We Learned from CDC’s Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) So Far?

A young boy playing with a stuffed animail
Who Participated in SEED?
  • Children 2 – 5 years of age were enrolled
  • > 8000 total participants
  • > 2000 children with ASD including:
    • 81% males with ASD
    • 19% females with ASD
  • > 3000 children with other developmental disabilities
  • > 3000 children from the general population
  • There is not one cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There are several factors associated with the development of ASD, including
    • Mother and child autoimmune conditions, such as eczema/psoriasis,
    • Pregnancy factors, such as infection with fever in the second trimester of pregnancy, and
    • Environmental factors, such as the interaction between air pollution and neighborhoods with high poverty.
  • Children with ASD are more likely to have developmental delays, gastrointestinal issues, and sleep problems, and to engage in self-harming behaviors.
  • Contrary to recommendations, many children with ASD are given medication to treat challenging behaviors before they receive behavior therapies.
  • Adolescents with ASD are much more likely to have mental health conditions and unmet health care needs

*Analyses of SEED data are ongoing, and we will continue to learn more from this important study.

An older child with his family

What’s Next for SEED?

During 2021 to 2026, CDC is investing more than $16 million to carry out the SEED Follow-Up Study to

  • Learn how best to improve the health and functioning of children with ASD as they mature,
  • Better understand the service use and needs of children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD, and
  • Better understand how to support families.

COVID-19 Impact Assessment

A little girl holding a teddy bear
  • In 2021, CDC’s Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) assessed the impact of COVID-19 on children’s behaviors and health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from this study will help inform public health strategies for how to support young children and their families during public health emergencies.
  • Preliminary findings:
    • Compared to children without Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), children with ASD were more likely to experience delays in receiving specialty health services in 2020. This indicates children with ASD need greater support to access services during public health emergencies.

*Analyses of the COVID-19 Impact Assessment data are ongoing, and we will continue to learn more from this important study.

Help Raise Awareness

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