In honor of Autism Acceptance Month this April, we’re highlighting 15 statistics that shine light on the current state of autism – its prevalence, the impact on families, and some of the challenges associated with treating the disorder.
Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that can cause a wide range of disruptive behavioral and social challenges for children and adults. Although there is no one standard treatment or a cure for autism, and much is still unknown about the cause and long-term efficacy of treatments, early intervention using Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (ABA) is often helpful in improving day-to-day functions, skills, and behaviors. Many people diagnosed with autism go on to live normal, fulfilling lives, and it is crucial that we take a moment to recognize their collective strength and resilience.
To learn more about the current state of autism, read the 15 key statistics below.
1. About 1 in 44 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder each year. (Source: World Health Organization)
2. Autism is nearly 4 times more common among boys (4%) than among girls (1%) in the U.S. (Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
3. 31% of children with autism also have an intellectual disability, with significant challenges in daily function – 25% are in the borderline range, with IQs from 71-85. (source: Autism Speaks)
4. An estimated 5.3 million of adults in the U.S. – 2.21% – have autism. (Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
5. ABA is the most-utilized therapy – it is currently used to treat 64% of individuals with autism. (Source: National Survey of Children’s Health)
6. The supply of autism health care specialists (ABA providers) is not meeting demand. In fact, from 2010 to 2021, demand for certified ABA therapists has increased by 5,852%. (Source: Behavior Analyst Certification Board)
7. ABA therapists are predicted to experience a more than 20% job growth rate by 2029. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)
8. It is important to note that there is a high rate of job turnover of ABA therapists – they earn an average salary of $35,938 per year, and nearly 29% stay in their job for less than 1 year. (Source: Zippia)
9. Meanwhile, autism diagnosis rates tripled from 2000 to 2016, likely because there is more awareness of the disorder among the general population and better diagnostic tools. (Source: NBC News)
10. And yet, nearly 30% of U.S. children with autism don’t receive any behavioral or medication treatment. (Source: JAMA Pediatrics)
11. There are a variety of barriers to autism treatment. One study found 51% percent of families supporting a child with autism said they had limited access to information and didn’t know where to turn for treatment, citing other barriers including lack of available treatment (44%) and location (39%). (Source: Case Western Reserve University)
12. Cost is another reason some families defer care, particularly affecting those who are uninsured. Supporting an individual with autism can cost roughly $60,000 per year throughout their childhood. (Source: Autism Speaks)
13. Pediatricians and primary care providers (PCPs) are the first point of care for children – it’s up to them to recognize and then suggest further testing to ensure timely diagnosis and early intervention. Studies reported that specialty training to help PCPs to diagnose autism led to improved access in autism diagnosis, with reduction in diagnosis wait time by around 50%. (Source: Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics)
14. There are challenges with access and retention for ABA therapy due to its high costs and at-times intensive nature. One study found less than half of children referred to ABA received services for 24 months – the amount of time generally needed to produce clinically meaningful progress. (Source: Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics)
15. Early autism diagnosis, intervention, and treatment can be lifesaving. One study from the United Kingdom found that 10% of people who died by suicide were likely to have undiagnosed autism. (Source: University of Cambridge)
Autism is a complex and nuanced disorder. While there is still much to learn about autism and the efficacy of long-term treatments and outcomes, one fact remains: There is a need for greater awareness and acceptance of autism in our society to drive earlier intervention and diagnosis. Autism awareness can be lifesaving, and we must all do our part to collectively reduce the stigma around the disorder, dispel myths and confusion around treatment options, and help foster a culture of support and empathy for children and families working to overcome the many challenges and barriers associated with the disorder.
Find expert advice and information on common issues faced by parents and caregivers of children with autism.