The percentage of Black, Hispanic and Asian and Pacific Islander children who were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder has increased faster than among white children, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report said this is the first time minority kids have surpassed white children in this statistic since the beginning of the survey in 2000.

For every 1,000 kids aged eight identified with autism, there were 24.3 white children diagnosed, 29.3 Black children, 31.6 Hispanic children and 33.4 Asian or Pacific Islander children.

The study reported an overall increase of autism diagnoses over the years, noting that “children born in 2016 were 1.6 times as likely to receive an ASD diagnosis or ASD special education classification by 4 years of age compared to children born in 2012.”

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The data gathered came from 11 states across the country in 2020, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.

Why the increase?

According to USA Today, the increase in the number of kids diagnosed with autism over time could be due to several factors, including better awareness of the condition, less stigma or a higher number of babies born with low birth weight.

Regarding minority children with autism, chief science officer of Autism Speaks Andy Shih said, “This increase is really fueled by us doing a much better job in identifying minority children with autism,” per USA Today. Shih also noted that the increase could be from children of color receiving help they need during the diagnostic process.

Dena Gassner, a professor at Towson University who was diagnosed with autism at age 40, told PBS that historically there have been “tragic consequences” of many minority children being treated for behavioral problems instead of being offered special education due to improper diagnoses or misinterpreted autism expression.

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“This is a relief. It represents the idea that some of these children who were lost in these systems may actually be finding their way home,” Gassner said.

“ASD prevalence was higher among children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. This shows improved access to diagnostic and treatment services across the socioeconomic spectrum,” per the report.

Utah autism statistics

According to the report, Utah had the lowest percentage (1.3) of 4-year-olds with autism compared to the 10 other states.