The Prevalence of ASD ages 3–21 in Year 2000-2010

40 years ago, only 1 out of every children had autism. Today, 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder(ASD) in US. This map shows that the prevalence of autism and related spectrum is significant increase from 2000 to 2010.

Year 2000
Year 2010

In the dot plot, it is clearly known that Minnesota and Massachusetts have seen the largest increases in growth rate of the prevalence in US.

(Source:American journal of medical genetics)

Type of Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are collectively referred to as a group of neurodevelopment disorder. There are three main sub-type of ASD, which are characterized by varying degrees of symptoms. Parents are most likely to notice the obvious signs between 2 and 3 years of their children’s age.

Autistic Disorder

(what we well known as “Autism”)

Symptoms (Severe): language delays, impaired social interaction, restricted and repetitive behavior, intellectual disability.

Asperger Syndrome

Symptoms (Milder): impaired social interaction, unusual behaviors and interests, not problems with social interaction.


(Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not otherwise Specified)

Symptoms (Mildest): Not meet the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome, only social and communication challenge.

This multiple pie charts illustrate the number and proportion within each diagnostic subtype in 11 states in 2012.

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


Studies over decades have suggested that males are more likely than women to suffer from neurodevelopment disorders like ASD. The following scatterplot shows the estimated prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among 1,000 children aged 8 years by sex in 11 states in 2012. We can find out that autism are generally 5 times more common among boys than girls in .

(Prevalence (95% CI))

A study which published in the American Journal of Human Genetics attributed this disparity to what is called the “female protective model.” It means that girls are more able to put up with harmful genetic mutations and therefore they need larger amounts of them than their male counterparts. Even in the same level of ASD, girls are better at dealing with social relationships in order to get along with their peers.

However, since girls sets higher genetic mutations, it is probably in their severe stages of the spectrum by the time they are diagnosed with ASD.

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


(Prevalence (95% CI))

(Prevalence (95% CI))

(Male-to-female prevalence ratio)


The occurrence of ASD happens everywhere in the world, regardless of race and ethnic groups. The bar charts show the estimated prevalence of ASD among 1,000 children aged 8 years by different race and states. We may find out the prevalence was generally lower among Hispanic children compared with non-Hispanic children at a glance. Is it true that hispanic children are unlikely to have ASD than their counterparts? In fact, all of the data here are based on ASD surveillance, which particularly collected in public schools. Therefore, a portion of nonwhite children with ASD are impossible to be identified and evaluated.


(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

About Expense

The financial and psychological burden in the households of autism children is incredibly stressful. According to a research funded by Autism Speaks, families with autism children involve intellectual disability tend to spend 2.4 million dollars for an individual’s lifetime and 1.4 million dollars when it does not.

Direct medical, direct non-medical and indirect productivity costs are three main expenditure for ASD. Compared with many other disease, such as heart disease and cancer that are limited to medical and productivity cost, ASD faces crippling costs for direct non-medical which includes educational and transportation expanse; behavioral, occupational, speech and related therapy.

California is the most populous state with a variety of racial and ethnic groups in the United States. The following charts show the average spending by California's Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) for Persons with Autism across different age groups in year 2012–2013. To some degree, it can be representative for the United States. But we also should be alert that the data are based on people who have received services from CDDS, for those who are not qualified for CDDS or run out-of-pocket for therapies are lack of consideration.


Here below is the annual average spending by California's Department of Developmental Services for Persons with Autism. From the chart we can know that the total cost of Community Care Facilities rank the highest among all other categories. It started below $40,000 for ages 3–6, peaked for ages 7–11 and 12–16 over $50,000 and then gradually sunk to the interval of $30,000 and $40,000 for adults, and finally went back to $44,000 and $46,000 for elders. It is also clearly that the data of the Day Care Programs and Support Services are closely related to age patterns.

(Source:Spending by California’s Department of Developmental Services for Persons with Autism across Demographic and Expenditure Categories)

Living with Austim

Jessica is a high school student who devotes most of her lives to kids with special needs. She joined best buddies, an non-profit organization that aims to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One of her buddy is Ryan, an 17-year-old autistic boy. They spend lunch time together at school and usually hangout outside on weekend. By watching this small video story, we can gradually feel the warmth and sweet from an autistic boy.

Data-Driven story created by Han Huang

Instructor: Lynn Cherny