February 8, 2007
Contact: Larry Parker
Phone: (973) 972-3000
CDC Releases Study of Autism Rates Nationwide, Including New Jersey
NJMS Researcher Who Obtained Data Says
Reporting Methods Affect N.J. Autism Rate
NEWARK — A study released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta shows that across the nation, autism rates are in the range of 6.7 per 1,000 - with approximately 1 in 150 8-year-old children affected by an autism spectrum disorder in areas surveyed in 2000 and 2002.
Researchers in 14 states conducted the autism monitoring activities in demographically representative sections of their states, under the umbrella of a CDC-sponsored network called the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, or ADDM. Walter Zahorodny, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, was the lead researcher on the New Jersey portion of the ADDM network investigation.
The New Jersey monitoring covered Essex, Hudson, Union and Ocean counties. The autism spectrum disorder prevalence rates identified in those areas of New Jersey were higher than in other ADDM-surveyed states - 9.9 cases per 1,000 8-year-olds in 2000, and 10.6 cases per 1,000 8-year-olds in 2002. According to the new findings, New Jersey’s autism rate is the highest of the 14 states in the ADDM network.
Autism spectrum disorders are developmental disabilities marked by impairment in social interaction and communication, as well as obsessive interests, and repetitive or compulsive behaviors. These disorders include autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
Dr. Zahorodny said the higher rate of autism spectrum disorders identified in New Jersey is likely due in part to the more comprehensive and detailed nature of the health and education records maintained by public and private health and education agencies, which served as the basis of their survey method. In addition, the public and professional awareness of autism in New Jersey is very high, making for earlier identification of affected children.
“In an area where you have a high familiarity with a problem, you’re going to be able to identify the problem more quickly and accurately,” he said.
Indeed, identifying autism spectrum disorders early in a child’s development is critical to lifelong coping with such disorders. New Jersey’s average age of diagnosis - between 52 and 55 months of age - was earlier than the majority of other states surveyed. Also, 97% of children in New Jersey with autism spectrum disorders are receiving special education services, a higher percentage than any of the other states surveyed.
In New Jersey, Dr. Zahorodny said, “We have a very student-sensitive system that is good at identifying kids with all kinds of learning disabilities.”
Dr. Zahorodny emphasized that the current report does not necessarily point to any specific autism risk factors, but that it re-establishes the importance of autism as a public health concern and creates a base for tracking changes in autism rates over time.
For more information on autism nationwide, the CDC maintains a Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/autism. For more information on Dr. Zahorodny’s work and autism in New Jersey, he may be reached at email@example.com or at (973) 972-6577.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a
graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates The University Hospital (UH), a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.