Autism prevalence in Tennessee appears lower than national average

May 1, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  Tennessee is contributing to a federal study that shows an increase in the number of children with autism.


Researchers at Vanderbilt University reviewed the medical records of nearly 25,000 Tennessee school children from eleven counties. It’s part of a larger study involving ten other states conducted by the Centers for Disease Control

The new research suggests that, nationwide, one child in 59 is somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Vanderbilt researcher Amy Weitlaus says Tennessee fared somewhat better with one child in 64 on the spectrum.

“It really underscores the need for increased access to services and supports for children as well as family throughout Middle Tennessee.”

Autism is considered a spectrum disorder because the symptoms and severity can vary widely. People with autism often have a hard time communicating and struggle socially.

Weitlaus says studies like the CDC autism project will help get people with the neurological disability get help at an earlier age. She says early detection is also critical for struggling parents.

“Many parents can feel frustrated or confused during those first few years of life as they try to understand why their children are interacting with them a little differently, or interested in things that they might not expect.”

Weitlaus says it isn’t clear if the number of children with autism is actually growing, or if the medical community is simply getting better at detecting the disorder earlier and more reliably.

Would you like to review the latest CDC autism findings?