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Rutgers expert discusses prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in NJ

<p>Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School who directed the New Jersey autism-monitoring site, said the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in New Jersey may be higher due to more complete case-finding in the state. &nbsp;</p>

Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School who directed the New Jersey autism-monitoring site, said the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in New Jersey may be higher due to more complete case-finding in the state.  


Rutgers researchers said in a federal report on March 26 that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to be more prevalent in New Jersey among 8-year-old children than in other states, according to a Rutgers Today article.

Researchers monitored ASD prevalence of 11 states participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Autism and Developmental Monitoring (ADDM) Network in 2016, the report said. The autism prevalence rate for New Jersey was approximately 1 in 32, or 3.1 percent, compared to the ADDM average, approximately 1 in 54, or 1.85 percent.

ASD prevalence across states increased 10 percent since 2014, the report said.

“Since 2000, when the ADDM Network was started, overall autism estimates increased 175 percent,” said Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School who directed the New Jersey autism-monitoring site. “Since 2000, New Jersey ASD estimates have been consistently higher than in all other participating states. From 2000 to 2016, autism prevalence in New Jersey increased from 1 percent to 3 percent, a 200 percent increase.” 

The 2016 ADDM Network estimates are the highest ever determined by a multi-state autism surveillance system, Zahorodny said. New Jersey’s higher autism prevalence estimates are related to more complete case-finding in New Jersey and availability of high-quality educational and developmental health services in the region, he said.

But changes in awareness and identification and diagnosis of ASD in children only take you so far in explaining an increase of this magnitude in the ADDM Network and others, Zahorodny said, according to Rutgers Today.

He said it is ultimately not known why autism prevalence has increased, but better awareness and an increase in underlying environmental risk factors are likely at play.  

“Autism is a significant lifelong developmental disability, and so a large and broad increase that is not understood represents an urgent public health phenomenon,” Zahorodny said. 


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