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In early February 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the most complete information to date on the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in the United States. Across 14 states studied in 2000 and 2002, the average prevalence rate was one in every 152 children (6.6 per 1,000). This number is consistent with previous estimates found in other well-controlled studies, one of which was conducted in New Jersey. Unexpectedly, the prevalence in New Jersey was higher with a rate of 1 in every 94 children (10.6 per 1,000). While the report did not offer conclusive reasons for the discrepancy, it did note that New Jersey investigators had access both to health and education records as well as a greater number of evaluations available for review. While this estimate for New Jersey is higher than previously published results, it is encouraging that the prevalence rates from both 2000 and 2002 were stable. This means that there was not an increase in the incidence, the number of new diagnoses. This stability in prevalence was found for four of the six sites that had data from 2000 and 2002. COSAC applauds the CDC for their systematic and unprecedented commitment to understanding the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders. High-quality research projects such as these offer essential information to improving the lives of all individuals with autism. For all New Jersey residents, there is reason for hope: children with autism are identified, diagnosed, and receive specialized services to help them reach their potential in our state. Readers are strongly encouraged to read more about this study on COSAC’s website, which contains the full CDC report along with answers to frequently asked questions compiled by New Jersey’s lead investigator, Dr. Walter Zahorodny. More New Jersey research will continue to track autism prevalence rates with an expected release of subsequent data by 2008.

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