Autism in the New York-New Jersey region is shockingly high, according to Rutgers

Autism in the New York-New Jersey region is shockingly high, according to Rutgers ...

According to a recent Rutgers study, documented autism spectrum disorder cases among children without any intellectual disabilities increased by as much as 500% between 2000 and 2016.

Contrary to previous assessments, the rise in prevalence disproportionately affected children with co-existing intellectual disabilities.

According to a Rutgers University research, documented autism spectrum disorder cases in the New York–New Jersey metro region increased by as much as 500 percent from 2000 to 2016.

This is the opposite of previous findings, which have suggested that autism is a common illness that also affects cognition.

Josephine Shenouda, an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Public Health and the lead author of the study published today (January 26) in the journal Pediatrics, supports this assertion.

"This assumption is false," Shenouda said in a paper. "In fact, two-in-three children with autism had no intellectual disability whatsoever."

Researchers tracked 4,661 8-year-olds with ASD in four New Jersey counties (Essex, Hudson, Ocean, and Union) during the study period. 1,505 (32.3 percent) had an intellectual impairment; 2,764 (59.3 percent) did not.

In addition, a subsequent analysis revealed that ASDs that coincided with intellectual disability increased by twofold from 2000 to 2016, from 2.9 per 1,000 to 7.3 per 1,000, while ASDs that had no intellectual disability increased fivefold, from 3.8 per 1,000 to 18.9 per 1,000.

Shenouda said that the observed spikes may be related to something, although further investigation is required to clarify the precise reasons.

"Better awareness of and testing for ASD does play a role," said Walter Zahorodny, a senior author on the study. "But the fact that we saw a 500 percent increase in autism among children without any intellectual disabilities - children we know are falling through the cracks - suggests that something else is also triggering the rise."

ASD prevalence has been linked to race and socioeconomic status, according to a Rutgers study, while Black children in high-income areas were 80 percent more likely to be identified with ASD and no intellectual disabilities compared to children in underserved areas.

Researchers were able to estimate ASD undercounting rates using data from the New Jersey Autism Study and census data from the United States.

Shenouda believes that addressing the findings might assist in closing identification gaps and eventually bring much-needed ASD services to lower-income communities.

"Early screening, early identification, and early intervention should be prioritized, especially in underserved areas," said the author.

Josephine Shenouda, PhD, Emily Barrett, PhD, Cara Lescott, BA, William Halperin, MD, DrPH, MPH, and Walter Zahorodny, PhD, 26 January 2023, Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2022-056594.

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