The gap in autism diagnoses between white and black children has closed as cases rise slightly in the U.S., a recently released government report revealed.
The new findings are due to more screening; a difference of 10% between the current and prior reporting year, the Centers for Disease Control reported.
Autism is a developmental disability marked by differences in communication, social interaction, and learning abilities. Parents usually notice autistic traits in their children by the age of two, according to the CDC.
The number of autism cases have generally trended upward. In 2016, 1 in 54 8-year-old children were diagnosed with autism. In 2012, 1 in 64 were diagnosed and 1 in 68 in 2010, the CDC reported.
The findings in the CDC report are based on health and medical history records reviewed by the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network. The records belonged to 8-year-olds living in one of 11 areas of the country in 2016.
For the first time, no overall difference in the number of white and black children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was found. In past reports, white children were consistently diagnosed with autism more often.
Black and Hispanic children are still diagnosed at a later age, however. Hispanic children also receive fewer diagnoses than their black and white counterparts due to certain social stigmas, lack of access to healthcare services and non-English primary language, according to the report.
Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation, worried about the implications of the findings amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“The rise in prevalence is concerning, but more concerning to us right now is the fact that children with autism are sheltering in place due to coronavirus, and many are suffering tremendously due to severe disruptions in their routine and lack of access to mandated therapeutic services,” Singer said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the CDC acknowledges it must work harder to make autism testing more accessible.
"More work is needed to improve identification of ASD within Hispanic communities," the report stated. "The ADDM Network will continue to monitor the number and characteristics of children with ASD to find out if these gaps continue to narrow."