One in 65 Arkansas Children Has Autism, Says New CDC/UAMS Report

autism spectrum disorder UAMS offers services to help children and parents manage autism at its James L. Dennis Developmental Center in Little Rock.

The UAMS Dennis Developmental Center coordinates the expertise of developmental pediatricians, nurse practitioners, speech/language pathologists, clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, psychological examiners and when indicated, other clinical specialists.

April 4, 2014 | One in 65 Arkansas children has been identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), according to a new report by the Arkansas Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (AR ADDM) Program of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

The new Arkansas numbers are the first since a 2002 count and are part of national data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was gathered from the national ADDM network. The 2002 count estimated that one in 145 Arkansas children were identified with autism.

The new state estimate is based on information collected from health and special education records of children who were 8 years old and living in Arkansas in 2010. The Arkansas monitoring program, in collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Health, is one of only two sites in the ADDM Network to track autism in an entire state and the only site that continues to do so.

The AR ADDM data found that boys are four times more likely to be identified with autism than girls. Also, white children are more likely to be identified with ASD than black or Hispanic children, and 23 percent of children identified with autism had not yet been classified as having it by a community health care or education provider.

“With statewide data, we can compare how common ASD is in different groups of children in different areas of the state,” said Eldon G. Schulz, M.D., principal investigator for the study and Rockefeller Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine. “AR ADDM will be able to identify underrepresented or underserved groups. We hope to guide service providers in directing efforts to connect with these kids.”

Based on the data, Arkansas already is taking action to allocate increased funding for autism services, reviewing curriculum changes to meet the needs of students with autism, offering a graduate level autism curriculum for students seeking a master’s degree in special education and certification in behavioral analysis. The state also is engaged in initiatives to improve screening for autism and support for parents, educators, law enforcement and mental health professionals.

AR ADDM relies on close collaboration with more than 250 education and health care providers throughout Arkansas to obtain complete and accurate data. The statewide monitoring program covers the second-largest population base and the largest geographic area in the national network. Research team members in some cases must travel more than 500 miles to visit data sources.

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