Is Autism Common?

Explore "is autism common," debunk myths, and understand the prevalence and impacts of autism globally.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
May 27, 2024
Published On
May 27, 2024

How Common is Autism?

Wondering if autism is common? Let's break it down with some real numbers and facts.

Autism in the U.S.

The CDC says about 1 in 59 kids in the U.S. have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Since 2000, the number of kids diagnosed with autism has shot up. Back then, it was 1 in 150. By 2008, it was 1 in 88, and now it's 1 in 36. This jump is partly because we're better at spotting and diagnosing autism, especially in minority communities.

Autism Around the World

Autism isn't just a U.S. thing; it's everywhere. A big study from 2008 to 2021 looked at over 30 million people and found that about 0.6% of the global population has ASD. But this number changes depending on where you look. In Asia, it's 0.4%, in America and Africa, it's 1%, in Europe, it's 0.5%, and in Australia, it's 1.7%.

Why the Increase?

Several factors explain the rise in autism diagnoses:

  1. Gender Differences: Boys are diagnosed more often than girls. This could be due to biological reasons or because boys and girls show symptoms differently.
  2. Better Diagnostic Tools: We've broadened the definition of autism and improved how we diagnose it. This means we're catching more cases that might have been missed before.
  3. Increased Awareness: More people know what to look for, leading to earlier and more accurate diagnoses.
Factors Explanation
Gender Differences Boys are diagnosed more often than girls
Better Diagnostic Tools Broader definitions and improved methods catch more cases
Increased Awareness More people know the signs, leading to earlier diagnoses

Regional Differences in the U.S.

Autism rates vary a lot across the U.S. For example, in Colorado, 1 in 93 kids are diagnosed with autism, while in New Jersey, it's 1 in 41.

Year Autism Prevalence in the U.S.
2012 1 in 88
2014 1 in 68
Latest 1 in 36

Global Trends

Just like in the U.S., autism rates are rising globally. This is mainly because we're getting better at diagnosing it and more people are aware of it. Public education and media representation have helped a lot in spreading awareness.

Busting Myths About Autism

There's a lot of misinformation out there about autism. Let's clear up some common myths:

  1. Violence: People with autism are not more violent. In fact, they're more likely to be victims of violence.
  2. Savant Abilities: Not everyone with autism has extraordinary skills. Only about 10% do.
  3. Increasing Cases: The rise in autism diagnoses doesn't mean there are more cases. We're just better at diagnosing it now.
  4. No Hope: Autism isn't a life sentence. Early intervention can help a lot, and many people with autism lead fulfilling lives.

Vaccines and Autism

One persistent myth is that vaccines cause autism. There's no reliable scientific evidence to support this. The rise in autism rates is due to better screening and broader diagnostic criteria, not vaccines.

Health Challenges

Autism often comes with various health challenges. A study found that 22% of kids with autism and 25.5% of young people with autism reported poor health. In comparison, only 2% of kids and 4.4% of young people without autism reported poor health. Autistic females tend to have poorer health than autistic males.

Group Percentage Reporting Poor Health
Children with Autism 22%
Young People with Autism 25.5%
Children without Autism 2%
Young People without Autism 4.4%

Daily Living

Autism can make daily tasks, communication, and social interactions challenging. Physical health issues can limit activities, and mental health challenges like anxiety or depression can make social interactions tough.

Employment and Social Life

Job Opportunities

The unemployment rate for adults with autism is between 50% and 75%. This is often because of social skill deficits needed for job interviews and workplace success. Inclusive hiring practices can help.

ASD Employment Statistics Percentage
Unemployment Rate for Adults with ASD 50% - 75%

Social Relationships

People with autism do want social relationships. Supportive environments, especially in schools, can help them form these relationships. Teachers can create inclusive settings and educate students on how to be friends with classmates on the spectrum.


[1]: Common Misconceptions About Autism

[2]: The Real Reasons Autism Rates Are Up in the U.S.

[3]: Autism Statistics

[4]: PubMed Study

[5]: PubMed Study

[6]: NBC News

[7]: PsychCentral

[8]: Kennedy Krieger Institute