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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Iowa Study Looks at Prevalence and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

A new study from researchers at the University of Iowa shows that while autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is relatively prevalent among US children aged 3-17 years, a large number of them don’t receive any type of treatment. The study was published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics.

The researchers looked at data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health and found that 2.8 percent of the 43,032 children in the survey had been diagnosed with ASD and 2.5 percent currently had ASD. Among the children with current ASD, 29.5 percent never received either behavioral or medication treatments.

Dr. Wei Bao, corresponding author of the paper and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, says that understanding who does not receive treatment for ASD can help researchers identify and eliminate barriers to treatment.

“ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder with substantial lifetime burden to the individuals and families,” Dr. Bao says. “Although the causes of ASD remain unclear, there are some evidence-based therapies to treat the symptoms of ASD. Efforts should be made to ensure that children with ASD receive appropriate treatment, the earlier the better.”

According to Dr. Bao, understanding the status of ASD is just a start. “As a next step, we want to know what factors are related to the risk of ASD,” he says. “We are particularly interested in modifiable risk factors during pregnancy or in early life that may help figure out a way to reduce or prevent ASD in the future.”

The study, “Prevalence and Treatment Patterns of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States, 2016”, was first-authored by Dr. Guifeng Xu and co-authored by Dr. Lane Strathearn, Dr. Buyun Liu, Dr. Matthew O’Brien, Dr. Todd G. Kopelman, Mr. Jing Zhu, and Dr. Linda G. Snetselaar; all from the University of Iowa.

[Photo: Dr. Wei Bao]