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Tripling of Autism Rates in NY-NJ Area: Study Finds a Five-fold Increase Among Kids Without Intellectual Disabilities

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that the rate of autism among children aged 8 and under in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area has more than tripled between 2000 and 2016. The study, conducted by researchers from Rutgers University, identified 4,661 8-year-olds with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the area.[0] A total of 1,505 (32.3%) had an intellectual disability, while 2,764 (59.3%) did not.[1]

The increase in diagnoses was more pronounced for those without intellectual disabilities, with a fivefold increase over the 16-year period.[2] Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and senior author on the study, said that the fact that there was a 500 percent increase in autism among kids without any intellectual disabilities “suggests that something else is also driving the surge.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all children be formally screened for autism spectrum disorder at their 18- and 24-month-old well-child visits.[3] The AAP additionally says pediatricians should begin monitoring babies at their first well-child visit by observing their behaviors.[3]

The study also found an association between ASD prevalence and racial disparities.[4] Black and Hispanic children have been diagnosed with autism at lower rates than white children, and the study identified that Black children with ASD and no intellectual disabilities were 30 percent less likely to be identified compared with white children.[5]

Shenouda concluded that the best way to address increasing autism and to effect disparities in autism identification is through universal autism screening during the toddler period. She said, “It’s important to identify autism early, and the best tool we have in our toolbox is universal autism screening before 36 months. It will identify children early, but it would also have the greatest benefit for children from underserved communities.”

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent, said, “You want to talk to your child’s pediatrician about this because early intervention makes a big difference. Remember, those children [with autism spectrum disorder] grow up to be teens and adults, so the more we can help them the better their outcomes can be.”[6]

The CDC states that individuals diagnosed with autism exhibit a broad array of characteristics related to communication, behavior and socialization.[3]

0. “Have autism rates really tripled in the US or are doctors just getting better at spotting it?” Daily Mail, 26 Jan. 2023,

1. “Study Logs Five-Fold Increase in Autism in New York-New Jersey Region” Rutgers University, 26 Jan. 2023,

2. “Study: Even With Fivefold Increase, Autism Likely Undercounted” Disability Scoop, 26 Jan. 2023,

3. “Study finds autism rates have tripled among young kids: What to know – WEIS | Local & Area News, Sports, & Weather”, 27 Jan. 2023,

4. “Autism cases increased 500% in the New York – New Jersey area” Interesting Engineering, 27 Jan. 2023,

5. “Intellectual Disability Seen in About One in Three Children With Autism” HealthDay News, 26 Jan. 2023,

6. “Study finds autism rates have tripled among young kids: What to know” WBAL Radio, 27 Jan. 2023,

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