HealthDay News — The prevalence of parent-reported autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is estimated at 2.5% among US children aged 3 to 17 years, according to a study published online November 26 in Pediatrics.

Using data from the nationally representative 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, Michael D. Kogan, PhD, from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau in Rockville, Maryland, and colleagues collected parent-reported information on whether children had received an ASD diagnosis. Weighted prevalence estimates of ASD were calculated, and health experiences were compared between children with ASD and other children. 

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The researchers found that parents of an estimated 1.5 million US children aged 3 to 17 years (2.5%) reported their child had received a diagnosis and currently had ASD. Compared with children with other emotional and behavioral disorders and children without these conditions, children with a parent-reported ASD diagnosis were more likely to have greater health care needs and difficulties accessing health care. In the last 12 months, 27% of children with current ASD were taking medication for ASD-related symptoms, and 64% received behavioral treatments; variation was seen by sociodemographic characteristics and co-occurring conditions.

“Because ASD is a lifelong condition for most children, an important area of future research would be to study life course development and understand what factors influence health and well-being in young adulthood and beyond for these children,” the authors write.

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