Summary: In the year Between 2000 and 2016, reported cases of ASD increased by as much as 500% in the New York-New Jersey metro region. The largest increase is in children without intellectual disabilities. Researchers have found that 2 out of 3 children diagnosed with autism have no intellectual disability.

Source: Rutgers University

In the New York-New Jersey metro area, reported cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) increased 500 percent between 2000 and 2016, with the largest increase among children without intellectual disabilities, according to a Rutgers study.

This is in contrast to previous findings, which suggest that autism commonly co-occurs with intellectual disability.

“One of the assumptions about ASD is that it co-occurs with intellectual disability,” said Josephine Schnoda, assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health and lead author of the study. Pediatrics.

“This claim is supported by older studies that show up to 75 percent of children with autism have intellectual disabilities.”

“Our paper shows that this assumption is not true,” Shenouda said. “In fact, in this study, three out of three children with autism had no intellectual disability.

Using binary data New Jersey Autism StudyResearchers identified 4,661 8-year-olds with ASD in four New Jersey counties (Essex, Hudson, Ocean and Union) during the study. Of these, 1,505 (32.3 percent) had an intellectual disability. 2,764 (59.3 percent) did not.

Further analysis showed that ASD co-occurred with intellectual disability in 2010. It doubled between 2000 and 2016 – from 2.9 per 1,000 to 7.3 per 1,000. Rates of ASD with no intellectual disability jumped fivefold, from 3.8 per 1,000 to 18.9 per 1,000.

Shenouda said that while more research is needed to identify the exact causes, there may be explanations for the observed increases.

“Better understanding and diagnosis of ASD will play a role,” said Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor at Rutgers New Jersey School of Medicine and senior author on the study.

“But the fact that we’re seeing a 500 percent increase in autism among children with no intellectual disability—the fact that we know children are falling through the cracks—suggests that something else is on the rise.”

This is a child's drawing with building blocks.
Rates of ASD with no intellectual disability jumped fivefold, from 3.8 per 1,000 to 18.9 per 1,000. The image is in the public domain.

The prevalence of ASD has been shown to be related to race and socioeconomic status. According to a Rutgers study, black children with ASD are 30 percent less likely to be diagnosed with ASD than white children, and children living in affluent areas are 80 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than children with no intellectual disability. Unexpected places.

Using data from the New Jersey Autism Survey and US Census data, the researchers were able to estimate undercount rates of ASD in the four counties.

Shenowda said that unraveling the findings could help close detection gaps and ultimately bring much-needed ASD services to low-income areas.

“Up to 72 percent of the ASD population has borderline or average intellectual ability, so there needs to be an emphasis on early diagnosis, early identification and early intervention,” she says.

“Because gains in mental activity are proportional to significant interventions at an early age, universal screening is especially important in underserved communities.

So autism research news

Author: Patty Zielinski
Source: Rutgers University
Contact: Patti Zielinski – Rutgers University
Image: The image is in the public domain.

Preliminary study: Closed access.
Prevalence and differences in the diagnosis of autism without intellectual disability ” by Josephine Shenouda et al. Pediatrics


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Prevalence and differences in the diagnosis of autism without intellectual disability


Intellectual ability predicts functional outcomes in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Classification of ASD children with and without intellectual disability is important to aid in etiological research, to provide services, and to inform evidence-based education and health planning.


Using a cross-sectional study design, data from 2000 to 2016 were analyzed among 8-year-old children living in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area with and without an ASD diagnosis. Multivariate Poisson regression models were used to identify trends for ASD with ID (ASD-I) and with ID (ASD-N).


A total of 4661 8-year-olds were diagnosed with ASD. 1505 (32.3%) were ASI-I and 2764 (59.3%) were ASD-N. Males were 3794 (81.4%), 946 (20.3%) were non-Hispanic black (Black), 1230 (26.4%) were Hispanic, and 2114 (45.4%) were non-Hispanic white (White). From 2000-2016, we observed a 2-fold and 5-fold increase in the prevalence of ASD-I and ASD-N. Black children are 30% less likely to have ASD-N. Children living in affluent areas are 80% more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than children in underserved areas. A higher proportion of children with ASD-I live in vulnerable environments compared to children with ASD-N. Regardless of identity status, males had a higher prevalence compared to females; However, the male-to-female ratio was slightly lower when compared to ASD-N subjects.


One in 3 children with ASD had ID. Differences in the diagnosis of ASD without ID have been observed between black and Hispanic children, as well as children living in minority communities.

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