Richmond, VA, March 24, 2023 — Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States, with one in 36 children receiving a diagnosis. The new data was released in two reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) detailing prevalence rates, characteristics, and screening and diagnostic information.
Here at the ASCV, we have witnessed an increase in demand for its services. In 2022, the ASCV served more than 7,000 participants (up from 5,500 in 2021) through 362 programs (up from 350 in 2021). In addition, the ASCV awarded more than $26,500 in scholarships to families facing financial challenges while caring for a loved one with autism last year.
“This new CDC data mirrors the increase in demand we’re seeing here,” says ASCV Executive Director Ann Flippin. “The need for our programs and resources for individuals with autism is rapidly growing. We receive more calls than ever before through our Information & Referral Service. Our programs reach capacity quickly, and many local therapy providers have long waiting lists for services.”
Increasing prevalence rates continue to underscore the urgent need for equitable support services and programs for the Autism community. The increase to 1 in 36 eight-year-olds being diagnosed from the 2021 report of 1 in 44 eight-year-olds, can be attributed to a variety of factors, including an increased rate of diagnosis itself. This means that while diagnostic screening and identification are improving in some ways, the prevalence rate is also increasing.
“The Autism Society and its network of affiliates have been working to close the racial disparity gap in early screening and diagnosis through education, resource development, and community programming to better support these underserved populations,” states Christopher Banks, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America in his National Statement.
The early identification report demonstrates that for the first time, the percentage of 8-year-old Asian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and Black children identified with Autism was higher than among 8-year-old White children. This change effectively closes the racial and ethnic gap which was observed and reported in previous ADDM reports. These shifts may reflect improved screening, awareness, and access to services among historically underserved groups.
“It’s important to recognize this improvement, however, the increased prevalence rates mean we urgently need increased access to quality supports and services at the federal and state level,” says Banks.
“The CDC’s announcement is right before April, Autism Acceptance Month,” Flippin says. “The ASCV, along with the Autism Society network across the country, is reminding everyone that Autism acceptance happens every day.”
During April, the ASCV will host a variety of events including the Life in the Community Symposium on April 15, 2023, designed to strengthen community support systems for parents and caregivers of adults, as well as adult self-advocates. In addition, the community is invited to a special screening of the film You Have No Idea at the Byrd Theatre which will include a Q&A with the family and filmmakers.
“Through events like the RVA Duck Race & Festival of Inclusion, Richmond has shown us again and again that they are here to support our important work,” Flippin says. “With the release of this new data, we know we’ll need their help now more than ever.”