37 Disheartening Autism Statistics


In 2016, new autism statistics issued by the CDC found that the prevalence of this developmental disorder had remained steady. This was the first time in more than a decade that the prevalence of autism had not risen. This means the current rate of autism in the United States is 1 in 45 people.

The symptoms of autism can present themselves in early childhood. It is often characterized by having a difficult time in communicating with others, forming relationships with other people, or using abstract concepts. There are many types of autism that may occur on an entire spectrum, with each diagnosis creating unique challenges and strengths for each person.

The most obvious symptoms of autism may appear as early as 2 years of age. It can even be diagnosed at 18 months of age in some instances. Certain developmental delays can be recognized and addressed even earlier than this. These autism statistics show that even though the prevalence rates are quite high, we are also understanding more about this condition and how to help those with it.

Statistics About Autism

1. Boys are more than 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. From data published before 2016, 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls would be diagnosed with autism in the United States. (Autism Speaks)

2. About 50,000 teens with autism become adults every year and this causes them to lose their school-based autism services. (Autism Speaks)

3. Up to 33% of those who are diagnosed with autism will remain non-verbal throughout a majority of their lives. (Autism Speaks)

4. About 1 in 6 children in the United States have a developmental disability. This can range from speech or language impairments to serious disabilities, such as cerebral palsy. Autism is considered to be a serious developmental disability. (CDC)

5. About 33% of children who are diagnosed with autism will also be diagnosed with an intellectual disability. (Autism Speaks)

6. Part of the reason behind the rising autism rates over the last 30 years is the fact that the diagnostic criteria for autism has changed with each revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). In 1983, some autism diagnosis options were not recognized as they are today. That’s one reason why in the 1980s, autism was reported at a rate of 1 in 10,000 children, but later in the 1990s, it was reported at 1 in 1,000 children. (Autism Science Foundation)

7. Studies on several continents show that the prevalence rate of autism is approximately 1%. In South Korea, a prevalence study showed a prevalence rate of 2.6% in the country. (Autism Science Foundation)

8. If one child is diagnosed with autism, then an identical twin will also be affected up to 95% of the time. In non-identical twins, if one child as autism, then the other is only affected up to 31% of the time. (CDC)

9. Parents who have one child with autism have up to an 18% chance of having a second child that will also be affected. (CDC)

10. Autism tends to happen more often in people who have certain chromosomal or genetic conditions. About 10% of children who are diagnosed with autism will also have tuberous sclerosis, Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, or another disorder. (CDC)

11. 44% of children who are diagnosed or identified as having autism have average or above-average intellectual abilities. (CDC)

12. Children who are born to older parents are at a higher risk of having autism. (CDC)

13. A small percentage of children who are born with a low birth weight or are born before the 37th week are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with autism. (CDC)

14. The co-occurrence of one or more non-autism related developmental diagnoses is 83%, but the co-occurrence of one or more psychiatric diagnoses is just 10%. (CDC)

15. The median age for an autism diagnosis in the United States is currently 3 years, 10 months. If it is a PDD-NOS diagnosis, then the median age is 4 years, 1 month. For children diagnosed with Asperger disorder, the median age is 6 years, 2 months. (CDC)

16. The total costs per year for children with autism in the United States can be as high as $60.9 billion. This total includes indirect costs; such as special education needs or lost parental productivity. (CDC)

17. The cost of lifelong care that is due to autism-related issues can be reduced by 67% when there are early interventions. (Autism Society)

18. Just 19% of people who have a diagnosed disability in the US are participating in the current labor force. Those with a disability have an unemployment rate that is consistently above 10%. (Autism Society)

19. It costs more than $8,600 extra each year to provide educational services to a student with autism compared to the cost of education for a student in the general population. (Autism Society)

20. South Korea reports a prevalence of autism at 1 in 38 children, with many who were included in those figures having gone previously undiagnosed. (Autism Speaks)

21. In California, 80% of those who are identified as having autism are 18 years of age or younger. (Time Magazine)

22. In a study of autism in the general adult population, researchers found that about 1 in 100 adults are on the spectrum. (Time Magazine)

23. Researchers have found no significant differences in autism prevalence among people in any adult age group, ranging from the 20s to the 70s. This may suggest that autism rates are consistent within the human population, but our criteria for diagnosing it have improved or changed over time. (Time Magazine)

24. Most adults who are diagnosed with autism or display symptoms of being on the spectrum are male and unmarried. About 1.8% of men surveyed had autism, but single men who had never married had a 4.5% rate of autism compared to just 0.2% of women of an adult age. (Time Magazine)

25. Most parents who have a child that is on the autism spectrum report noticing developmental problems before their child’s first birthday. The two most common early issues involve vision and hearing. Differences in communication, fine motor skills, and social interactions are also evident as early as 6 months of age. (CDC)

26. The cost of autism over the lifespan of an individual in the United States is estimated to be $1.4 million. If an intellectual disability is also present, then the cost rises to $2.4 million. (Autism Society)

27. Fewer than 43% of children that are ultimately found to be on the autism spectrum in the United States received developmental evaluations before the age of 3. (CDC)

28. It is recommended that all children be screened for autism, whether the evidence of developmental delays are present or not, between the ages of 18-24 months. (American Academy of Pediatrics)

29. Almost 67% of the increase in autism diagnoses globally can be attributed to the changes that have been made to the diagnostic criteria and tracking for the spectrum. (Forbes Magazine)

30. Up to 30% of children with autism will have some words at 12-18 months of age. Even non-verbal children may speak later on in childhood. (National Autism Association)

31. Autism varies greatly from person-to-person. No two people with autism are exactly alike. (National Autism Association)

32. A study completed in 2008 found that the mortality risk among those who are diagnosed with autism is nearly twice that of the general population. (National Autism Association)

33. Autism itself does not affect life expectancy. Higher mortality risks that are associated with autism are largely due to accidents that occur, with a high prevalence of drowning incidents. (National Autism Association)

34. People who have autism have co-morbid medical conditions that are very common, including allergies, asthma, persistent viral infections, sleeping disorders, and epilepsy. (National Autism Association)

35. Many children with autism engage in repetitive movements or unusual behaviors. This may include twirling, flapping the arms, and rocking from side-to-side. Becoming preoccupied with parts of an object is also common. (NIH)

36. For many children, the symptoms of autism improve with age and behavioral treatments. Depression or behavioral problems may occur during the transition process and the severity of their disorder, but most will go on to work successfully and live independently even though there is no cure for autism. (NIH)

37. The challenges of treating autism cost the average family about $60,000 per year, yet only 0.55% of total NIH funding goes to autism research. (Autism Speaks)

Our recognition of autism may have changed over the last 30 years, but research suggests that prevalence rates seem to be fairly stable in most populations. With early recognition and intervention, it can become possible to counteract the symptoms of autism so that today’s children can become tomorrow’s leaders. Yet despite the evidence that early intervention works. $2 out of every $3 that is spent on autism services goes to adult services.

Autism can be a scary diagnosis for families, but these autism statistics show that there is hope for a brighter future.