Autism rates increase in U.S. and AZ

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April is Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report showing autism rates are on the rise in the U.S. and Arizona.

Research done in 2020 shows rates have nearly tripled in the last sixteen years. About one in 36 children (in U.S. and AZ) has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For the first time, rates reveal higher prevalence among Black non-Hispanic, Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander children compared to White non-Hispanic children.

Daniel Openden, President and CEO of Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, joined Arizona Horizon to discuss the report as well as his organization’s upcoming fundraiser on April 14.

What is Autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder that Openden also categorized as a social disorder.

Autism impacts social interaction and communications. “It can impact your ability to develop language, appropriate communication, social interaction with friends, and it also will impact what we we call repetitive restricted interest,” Openden said.

Age range

“We are getting better at being able to identify much younger,” Openden said. “We recommend screening in a pediatrician’s office as young as 12 months of age.”

Openden said diagnoses are usually between the ages of 14 to 18 months, but definite diagnoses are set by age 2.

Autism prevalence rates

“We are seeing this huge increase in the number of kids that are diagnosed,” Openden said.

Compare 2020’s rate of one in every 36 children to the year 2000, where one in every 150 children was diagnosed with Autism.

Openden emphasizes optimism behind today’s higher rates. “It might also indicate that we’re getting better at detecting, identifying and diagnosing Autism,” Openden said. “What if those numbers were pretty similar all along? We’re just catching them now.”

Upcoming Fundraiser on Friday, April 14

This fundraiser serves to build communities around those with Autism by bringing all in our community to participate.

The event is taking place at the Arizona Biltmore on Friday, April 14. Ticket sales are closed, but the event will be livestreamed on Facebook starting at 8 a.m. on April 14. Visit the livestream here:

Daniel Openden

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