Newswise – In some New Jersey communities, up to 8% of children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – more than triple the national average, according to a Rutgers study.
Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study appears in the journal Autism research.
Researchers analyzed data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network – a group of CDC-funded programs to estimate the number of children with autism – looking at 5,453 children in public school districts in Essex, Hudson counties and Union who were 8 years old in 2016.
They found an estimated prevalence of ASD of 36 children per 1,000 in most areas, but over 70 per 1,000 in several school districts across the state. The national average for children with ASD is 2%.
“When we focused on the district level, we recognized that many communities in our area – about one in five, including some of the larger ones – had ASD rates between 5 and 10%,” said co-author of the Joséphine Shenouda study, a coordinating project at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “These variations may reflect differences in the use of services or access to care. Larger districts may provide more services from more professionals or have additional resources for detection or management of ASD. Parents of children with learning or developmental disabilities may also move from small districts to large districts in order to maximize their children’s educational attainment.
The study also found that one in five school districts had ASD estimates above 5% and that Hispanic children were less likely to be identified with ASD, compared to their white and black peers, indicating a significant disparity in identification.
The prevalence of ASD was around 5% in Newark, the state’s largest school district. Tom’s River, which is the state’s largest suburban school district, had the highest prevalence of ASD (7.3%), with a prevalence of 12% among boys. “We found that communities with average socioeconomic status, like Toms River, had the highest rates of ASD, which was contrary to expectations because, in previous US studies, rates of ASD were highest in communities. with high socioeconomic status, ”Shenouda said.
“The study suggests that effective education and health planning should be informed by estimates and data at the community and county level as well as by national and national averages,” said co-author Walter Zahorodny, associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “It also shows that further efforts are needed to reduce disparities in the identification of ASDs in the Hispanic community, including the expansion of screening for ASDs in toddlers.”
Other Rutgers writers include Emily Barrett, Amy L. Davidow, William Halperin, and Vincent Silenzio.