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Autism Experts Available to Comment on New CDC Autism Prevalence Report

Dr. Craig Newschaffer and Dr. Ellen Giarelli


Experts from Drexel University are available to comment on a new study on autism prevalence released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC estimates that 1 in 88 children in the United States has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the study that looked at 2008 data from 14 communities, one of which was Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania. Autism spectrum disorders are almost five times more common among boys than girls – with 1 in 54 boys identified.

Dr.  Craig J. Newschaffer , director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, is a professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in Drexel’s School of Public Health, is available for comment about the new report. Newschaffer is a nationally prominent epidemiologist studying the causes of autism spectrum disorders. He was an investigator with the Maryland site of the CDC study.

Dr. Ellen Giarelli , an associate professor in Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, was the principal investigator for the Pennsylvania study site, conducted at her previous appointment at the University of Pennsylvania. Giarelli is also available for comment about the new report.

According to Giarelli, “In Philadelphia County, the total prevalence of ASD increased from one in 200 in 2002 to one in 75 in 2008. The prevalence in boys remains higher. On average the ratio is one girl with ASD to four boys with ASD. The statistics in Philadelphia match the national average. This increase is in part due to better trained diagnosticians, earlier diagnosis and increased public awareness.”

Giarelli said, “While this is a snapshot of one age group, eight-year-olds, health care providers—nurses, primary care physicians and so on—need to see the larger picture. That is, children with autism spectrum disorders grow up. Now and in the future they will require medical and nursing care in and out of hospitals. Healthcare providers need information on how best to provide this care while considering the special needs of this patient population.”

The CDC report, Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008, provides autism prevalence estimates from 14 areas. It was published today in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More details about Newschaffer, Giarelli and other Drexel autism experts are available at