Autism prevalence in N.J. outpaces other states

    Research just released by the Centers for Disease Control finds that one in 88 American children has autism.

    These numbers are 78 percent higher than those found in a 2002 study. The study examined 8-year-olds from 14 states, including New Jersey where the autism rate was one in 49 children, nearly twice that of the  national average.

    Walter Zahorodny of the UMDNJ Medical School led the New Jersey component of the research. He said the numbers do not mean that living in New Jersey increases autism risk, Rather, he said, it’s a sign of superior health care.

    “It is absolutely so that our sophistication and the high quality services make it likely that we are a leading indicator of autism, not a sign of something risky in New Jersey,” he said

    Zahorodny says the research and evaluation of birth certificates of kids who have autism did not validate another popular hypothesis, that New Jersey has higher autism rates due to families flocking to the Garden State because of the available education and intervention services.

    He says researchers still can’t explain the general increase in autism prevalence, but are examining risk factors such as advanced paternal and maternal age, and premature birth. Many scientists say the general increase could also be explained with better diagnostic and detection tools.

    Autism advocates in New Jersey say the findings have many policy implications — among them a dire need for more services and more trained providers.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.