New Report Shows 1 in 36 U.S. Children Has an Autism Diagnosis: Now Will People Care?

By Dr. Bob Sears

The National Health Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has released a new report featuring the parent survey rates of developmental disabilities including autism (1.)  This report should raise serious concern. Here is what the report found:

“The previous 2014 survey demonstrated the rate of autism at 1 in 45 (2.24% of the U.S.  population.) In 2015, this has risen slightly to 1 in 43. This 2016 survey shows the highest rate ever recorded – 1 in 36 children (2.76%).”

Another key finding included:

“During 2014-2016 the prevalence of children aged 3-17 years who had ever been diagnosed with any developmental disability increased from 5.76% to 6.99%”

That’s 1 in 14 kids.  1 in 14. This report is hard to digest.  My heart is in my throat. The rapid increase of prevalence of autism and developmental disabilities should stop any human in their tracks.

What is important to note is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculates the rate differently. The CDC uses a different set of data to keep track of autism rates (surveillance reports from 11 states) and their current surveillance research has shown a lower rate of autism: 1 in 68.  We have written about that on the TACAnow blog before (2.)

In the past, the CDC often does not typically adopt this NCHS survey as the official autism prevalence rate.

It is also important to note how the CDC calculates the rate of autism. Their rate is based on very old data (3.)  With each CDC report we wait four years until the information is made available.

Back in November 2000, TACA was established when the rate of autism was 1 in 500 (4.) That was up sharply from the 1970-1980’s prevalence of 1—2 in every 10,000 U.S. children being diagnosed with autism.

Since 2000, funding and support for autism is not meeting the basic needs of families. The autism epidemic is not being addressed in a meaningful way.  On the TACAnow blog we have outlined what is needed for families living with autism (5.) What we do know is families are handling autism in their own homes, with their own money, with little to support them.  I do not understand why we don’t see more progress and support for families living with autism.

At some point, this continued rise in serious developmental disabilities should push action. We should ask “what does the number need to be for people to get concerned?”


  1. 2016 NCHS report
  2. Previous blogs on autism prevalence increases:
  3. How is the CDC autism rate calculated:
  4. Autism prevalence over the years:
  5. What is the plan for autism:

For more information about Dr. Bob Sears, please see:

5 thoughts on “New Report Shows 1 in 36 U.S. Children Has an Autism Diagnosis: Now Will People Care?

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  1. Leslie in Texas:

    Welcome to one in 36.
    Welcome to the party.
    Welcome to sleepless nights. Sleepless months. Sleepless years.
    Welcome to medical poverty – tens of thousands of dollars a year in therapies, supplements, prescription medicines, copays for surgeries and procedures.
    Welcome to isolation and alienation from family, friends.
    Welcome to being accused of abuse, neglect, bad parenting from your mother, your father-in-law, your brother, your best friend, your neighbor.
    Welcome to thousands of hours of meetings with school officials fighting with all you have to obtain a substandard education for your child. For years and years and years.
    Welcome to hiring lawyers, advocates, psychologists just to get your child in a wanted placement at school – only to find it is no better than what they had before. Just different.
    Welcome to private school tuition, therapy bills, treatments not covered by insurance.
    Welcome to lost dreams.
    Welcome to the world of being excluded from birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, family picnics, outings to the park.
    Welcome to the terror of searching for a child gone missing in the blink of an eye, knowing they will bolt for the nearest body of water – no matter the danger.
    Welcome to the anguish of seeing your child missing out on everything – sports, sleep overs, concerts, vacations, friendships, homecoming, prom, graduation, dating, marriage, jobs.
    Welcome to churches who turn you away –
    especially when the going gets tough.
    Welcome to impossible sickness, bowel disease, extremely difficult diets, mitochondrial disorder, cerebral folate deficiency, chronic infections, and intractable seizure disorders. And if you are REALLY unlucky, welcome to autoimmune disease.
    Welcome to muscle biopsies, 72 hour EEGs, MRIs, PET scans, SPECT scans, lumbar punctures, traumatic blood draws by the dozens, infusions, poop tests, pee tests, breath tests, sleep studies.
    Welcome to guardian ad litem attorneys, special needs trusts, social security, and other government bureaucracies your child might face for decades to come.
    Welcome to thousands of hours on hold only to be told you need to call or visit yet another agency.
    Welcome to doctors who criticize, denigrate, insult you and then ignore serious, painful, and sometimes life threatening symptoms in your child because they have autism and the doctors can’t fathom autism could co-occur with other conditions. And in fact, is defined by all those conditions.
    Welcome to medical neglect as a standard of care.
    Welcome to a Congress who doesn’t act, Presidents who break every promise, media who won’t report the truth, industries who profit off the backs of your child’s suffering. Day in. And day out. Year in. And year out.
    Welcome to the relentless worry, sorrow, stress and grief of loving someone more than life itself and knowing – just maybe- they might NOT have been one in 36.
    Welcome to my world.
    And my son’s.

  2. This also means that 18 years from now thousands of parents will be attempting to help these adults find a meaning life without adequate resources!

  3. People will care when they are impacted by it. Then they will stop calling us crazy and worse names. However, the rate will still need to increase significantly. I am very saddened about this but I don’t think anything significant will happen until it is 1 in 3 or similar. So, we better find a way to heal our children…

  4. Thank you for this article. Unfortunately, I see my own siblings turn a blind eye to my son’s autism because like so many it is easier for them to keep going forward with their own “normal” lives rather than stop and really think about this epidemic. The mainstream excuses of better diagnosis…are accepted because it is convenient to do so for those not living with autism.

    1. Agreed Nilab. It appears it’s only important once autism hits your family.
      We need to raise our voices and talk of the financial impact/tax burden. We feel the human costs personally but need others to know the tax burden they will feel. The links on this blog outline that well over $200 billion annual US cost and growing.
      Makes me sad. It’s just too true to stomach.

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