Autism diagnoses on the rise in N.C.

March 28, 2014

RALEIGH — On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the prevalence rate of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is now 1 in 68, a 30 percent increase since 2012, when it was 1 in 88.

In North Carolina, which was one of the 11 states monitored through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, the prevalence rate is 1 in 58 children. This is an increase of 17 percent from the 2012 data. (The data were from an 11-county sample in central North Carolina totaling 37,783 children.)

Significantly, North Carolina had the youngest median age (37 months) of diagnosis for autism among states in the study. This can be attributed to increased awareness of autism and its symptoms.

“When my son Andrew and I were diagnosed with autism 20 years ago, the Autism Society of North Carolina was there to help us with services and support, as it had been doing for North Carolinians since 1970,” said Dave Spicer, a member of ASNC’s Board of Directors and an Asheville resident. “Through ASNC, professionals, parents, volunteers and people like me with autism are working together to provide North Carolina’s autism community with the best possible resources to enhance quality of life for everyone affected by autism. We stand ready to listen, and ready to help.”

Early screening and diagnosis continue to be critical. ASNC offers a variety of workshops and resources about the signs and symptoms of autism as well as a statewide network of Autism Resource Specialists to answer questions from families, caregivers, and professionals. The ASNC Training department continues to consult to early intervention programs and offer trainings about early diagnosis and best practices.

Early diagnosis and intervention helps individuals on the autism spectrum lead more productive lives. ASNC, in partnership with other organizations, is working to pass HB 498, which would require the State Health Plan and private insurance policies to cover costs associated with the diagnosis and treatment of autism. This will provide significant financial relief to families while saving the state money.

There is no cure for autism, but by focusing on the individual’s strengths and working to improve their weaknesses, we can help individuals with ASD live, work, and contribute in meaningful ways to their communities.

Families and community members are invited to join ASNC for a free World Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day celebration at Camp Royall in Moncure on April 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is an opportunity to learn more about available services and supports.