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Autism Statistics

Statistics can help shed light on some of the current trends in autism. For example, according to the statistics on autism, males are four times more likely to have autism than females. While statistics indicate that more children are getting special education services for the disorder than ever before, it is unclear how much of this increase is due to changes in how autistic people are identified and classified.

Statistics On Autism: An Overview

Experts estimate that two to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females.
Therefore, it can be summarized that between 1 in 500 (2/1,000) to 1 in 166 children (6/1,000) have autism.
There is not a full population count of all individuals with autism in the United States. However, using the occurrence data stated above, we can estimate that if 4 million children are born in the United States every year, approximately 24,000 of these children will eventually be diagnosed with autism.
Assuming the occurrence rate has been constant over the past two decades, we can estimate that up to 500,000 individuals younger than 21 have autism. However, many of these individuals may not be classified as having autism until school-age or later. Because behaviors related to autism are usually present before the age of 3, it is important to make sure the individuals are being identified and are receiving appropriate intervention services as early as possible.

Autism Statistics Compared to Other Childhood Disabilities

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the rate of autism for children ages 3 to 10 years to be 3.4 per 1,000 children, which is lower than the rate for mental retardation (9.7 per 1,000 children); but higher then the rates for cerebral palsy (2.8 per 1,000 children), hearing loss (1.1 per 1,000 children) and vision impairment (0.9 per 1,000 children) found in the same study.
Approximately 2 percent of children under the age of 18 have a serious developmental disability and these include:
  • Mental retardation
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision impairment.


Of these serious developmental disabilities, mental retardation (or intellectual disability) is the most common. A genetic disorder often associated with having mental retardation (MR) or an intellectual disability (ID) that many people recognize is Down syndrome. Current information indicate that having Down syndrome occurs in 1 out of 800 births and is slightly less common than autism.

Approximately 17 percent of children have some type of developmental disability, including more mild conditions such as speech and language disorders, learning disabilities, and ADHD, which appear to be more common than autism.
While developmental disabilities may affect a child's speech or language, physical growth, psychological growth, self-care, or learning, children's health may also be affected by diseases that impact adults as well. A common childhood disease, juvenile diabetes, is prevalent in approximately one in every 400 to 500 children and adolescents, which is in a similar range of the autism. However, autism is more common than childhood cancer, which has a prevalence rate of 1.5 per 10,000 children (1 in 300 males and 1 in 333 females have a probability of developing cancer by age 20 according to the National Cancer Institute).
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