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How Many Children Have Autism?

3 or 4 year old boy holding soft, multicolored sponge blocksWhat is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism is a group of developmental brain disorders rather than one disease.  Together, these disorders are called “autism spectrum disorder” or “ASD”.  They affect how children interact and communicate with each other.

Experts now know that children with ASD can have a wide range – or “spectrum” – of:

  • Symptoms
  • Skills
  • Levels of impairment – or disability.

Some children are mildly impaired by their symptoms, but others are severely disabled. It is even possible for children with the exact same diagnosis to act quite differently from one another.


How Common is ASD?

ASD is more common than many people think. The strongest research studies suggest that autism occurs in about 6 to 7 children out of every 1000 children.  That is about 1 in 150 children. 

The CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 110 children is diagnosed with an ASD. Both boys and girls are affected, but boys are diagnosed more often than girls.  In fact, rates of ASD are 4 to 5 times higher in boys than in girls.  In addition, the risk of a younger brother or sister having ASD is 10 times higher if an older brother or sister is already diagnosed.


Are More Children Being Diagnosed with ASD?

Experts are now better able to detect and help those children with milder forms of ASD. In the past, they did not have an autism diagnosis. Without a diagnosis, these children with mild symptoms did not get many services that could have been very helpful. Being able to recognize milder cases of autism has resulted in more children having the disorder.

A child can have an ASD diagnosis as young as 18 months. So pediatricians are monitoring children more carefully for early signs of ASDs.  Research also shows that parents have true concerns about their children’s development.  The average age of earliest development of ASD is actually much later at about 50 months.


Hope Through Research

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about Autism. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research?



How Many Children Have Autism? (CDC)

Johnson, CP.; Myers, SM. “Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders.” Pediatrics, v. 120 issue 5, 2007, p. 1183-215.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Resources


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    This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

    Last Reviewed: Apr 17, 2013

    Associate Professor of Psychology
    Associate Professor of Psychiatry

    College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

    The Ohio State University