Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Autism Rate Continues To Rise: One in 54 Children in the U.S. Has Autism


Randolph, Mass. – As we mark World Autism Awareness Day 2020, a new estimate released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that one in 54 U.S. children now has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD); two years ago, that figure was one in 59.

The updated numbers, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, are based on data collected in 2016 from health and educational records of 8-year-olds living in 11 communities across America. Boys continue to be four times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls, which makes the prevalence in boys one in 37, while the prevalence in girls is one in 151.

The sheer volume these data represent – at least one million U.S. boys and girls have autism, not to mention the rapidly growing number of adults with autism – is staggering.

Important findings in the recent report include the fact that more children are being evaluated for ASD, and at younger ages. Additionally, for the first time, the prevalence in black and white children is the same. This suggests that we are doing a better job across the country identifying children in some historically under-reached communities. 

However, the report also noted that, “Although no overall difference in ASD prevalence between black and white children aged 8 years was observed, the disparities for black children persisted in early evaluation and diagnosis of ASD. Hispanic children also continue to be identified as having ASD less frequently than white or black children.” [Read the report.

The call to action is clear. We must redouble our efforts to educate families and practitioners about autism’s early warning signs and diagnose children at a younger age. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the better the long-term outcome. Research shows that early diagnosis and intervention during the first years of a child’s life can significantly impact his or her long-term prognosis, particularly in the areas of language and social behavior.

We must also make information about the most effective evidence-based treatment for autism universally available, and create easier, faster, and more affordable access to that treatment for every child and family that needs it, across all communities, ethnicities, and socio-economic groups.

“Although we, like everyone else in the U.S., are dealing with the incredible challenges that have accompanied the COVID-19 crisis,” says May Institute President and CEO Lauren C. Solotar, Ph.D., ABPP, “we believe that promoting awareness about autism is as important as ever. It is my hope that this pandemic will make us all more aware of and empathetic toward not only the needs of individuals with autism, but of the needs of all of the most vulnerable individuals in our community and around the world.”

The National Autism Center at May Institute continues to offer free, downloadable resources about autism treatments at, including information about early warning signs.

About May Institute
May Institute is a nonprofit organization that is a national leader in the field of applied behavior analysis, serving individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities, brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs. Founded 65 years ago, we provide a wide range of exceptional educational and rehabilitative services across the lifespan.

May’s National Autism Center is dedicated to disseminating evidence-based information about the treatment of ASD, promoting best practices, and offering comprehensive and reliable resources for families, practitioners, and communities. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit

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