The Arc Reacts to New Federal Data Showing Autism on the Rise

Washington, DC – The prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) is rising, according to new data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   The CDC is reporting that one in 88 children has autism or a related disorder.

“The data signal an impending crisis in America’s safety net system for people with autism and related disorders.  We may be facing a ‘perfect storm’ as the rapid rise in the prevalence of autism comes at the very same time Congress is proposing to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from the Medicaid program – the single largest funding source of services and support for autism – while slashing funding for public health programs,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

ASDs are a group of developmental disabilities that are often diagnosed in early childhood and can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges over a lifetime.  There are three subtypes of ASDs: autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).  Chapters of The Arc serve people with autism and their families across the country, supporting their efforts to live and succeed in the community.

According to the CDC, medical costs for children with ASDs are estimated to be six times higher than for children without ASDs.  In addition to medical costs, intensive behavioral interventions for children with ASDs can cost $40,000 to $60,000 per child per year.

Early identification and intervention can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills.  CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” health education campaign promotes awareness among parents, health professionals, and child care providers about healthy developmental milestones, the importance of tracking each child’s development, and acting early if there are concerns. CDC offers free online resources, including checklists of developmental milestones, at

“Research and surveillance must continue to be priorities by entities such as the CDC, with dollars and expertise dedicated to trying to figure out not only the causes of, but also life solutions for autism.  We fully support the CDC’s position that early identification and intervention efforts are critical to ensuring the best opportunities for people with autism to achieve independence,” said Berns.

Autism NOW: The National Autism Resource and Information Center, a federally funded project of The Arc, is another resource for people with ASDs and their families.  The online center aims to help people searching the web separate fact from fiction when it comes to autism.  Learn more at

2 thoughts on “The Arc Reacts to New Federal Data Showing Autism on the Rise

  1. No two people are alike as are their disabilities. Building on a foundation of UDL (universal designed learning) should be a prerequisite for those of us who develop support tools for individuals with cognitive disabilities. The term accessibility must be fully embraced as we develop simplified user interfaces with expansion mechanisms allowing for more personalized applications.

    Equally as important is that those who benefit from technology are often the last in line to get access to it. Caregivers need to learn, apply, and integrate technology on behalf of those for whom they care and teach. But, how can we expect that from people earning minimum wage and often have only a high school education?

    Teachers are frequently more exposed to the new technologies but add overwork to the lack of funding for support technology, and we can see some of the many challenges before us as we work to create tools designed to help.

    Let us reflect in the words of John Kemp, “For individuals without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For those with disabilities, technology makes things possible.”

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