Part 1: A Shocking New Rate, 7.4% of 8-Year-Olds in New Jersey Town Have Autism

May 10, 2021

Toms River Report Shows Importance of Local-Level Population-Based ASD Estimates 

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that 1 in 54 American children have a diagnosis of autism. To calculate this rate, the CDC compiles and processes data on 8-year-olds from 11 different communities from across the nation. But what happens when the autism rate estimate is calculated on a much smaller population, one that has a multiple source public health monitoring system which analyzes data from both educational and health care sources? Could a much higher rate of autism be recognized? This seems to be the case for Toms River, New Jersey where a new report recently demonstrated that 7.4% of  8-year-olds (1 in 14) have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Toms River is a suburban community (population 92,000) 70 miles south of New York City and 55 miles east of Philadelphia. The town is home to New Jersey’s largest suburban school district with 15,000 students. This new estimate report states that 85% of the Toms River children with ASD were boys. The majority of these children were from white (Non-Hispanic) households (77%) that were considered middle income (90%). A large percentage of the children were born in New Jersey (83%). Most children had an IQ above 70 (88%) and were receiving special education services (87%). The remaining students (13%) were mainstreamed. The report’s authors recognize that Toms River ASD rates are higher than expected and attribute this increase due to the community’s stellar local surveillance.

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