"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

More and more children are missing developmental milestones: survey

July 13, 2023 – Nearly 9 out of 100 children within the United States are actually diagnosed with a developmental disability, in accordance with updated CDC figures.

Developmental disorders include autism, mental disabilities akin to Down syndrome, and a variety of other diagnoses which can be related to a toddler missing developmental milestones in playing, learning, or speaking.

The newly reported increase is just over 1 percentage point from 2019 to 2021. In 2019, the speed of developmental disability diagnoses was about 7 in 100 children. The latest figures come from 2021 data. published this week, after the CDC accomplished the evaluation of responses to the National Health Survey.

For children ages 3 to 17 in 2021, the survey found:

  • 1.7% had a mental disability
  • 3.1% had an autism spectrum disorder
  • 6.1% were diagnosed with “other developmental delay.”

From 2019 to 2021, there was no significant change in how often survey respondents reported that children had autism or an mental disability. The overall increase was as a consequence of a rise in reports from parents who had been told by a physician or health care skilled that their child had “any other developmental delay,” excluding autism spectrum disorder or an mental disability.

“Often, developmental delays are temporary diagnoses that may develop into autism or intellectual disability. But often children grow out of them,” lead report writer and CDC statistician Benjamin Zablotsky, PhD, told CBS News.

The CDC offers an app called Milestone Tracker to assist parents look ahead to signs of developmental delays. It also runs a public health education program called “Learn the signs. Act early.”

The recent report showed that boys were almost twice as prone to have developmental delays as girls. This pattern was reinforced when looking specifically at autism diagnoses. Boys were greater than thrice as prone to receive an autism spectrum disorder as girls. The autism rate amongst boys was 4.7%, in comparison with just 1.5% amongst girls.

While these recent survey results showed consistent autism rates from 2019 to 2021, one other CDC report earlier this year showed an alarming increase in the speed of autism spectrum disorder amongst 8-year-olds. This report, which compared data from 2008 to 2020, showed that the speed of autism amongst 8-year-olds increased from 1 in 88 children to 1 in 36 children over those 12 years.

The two analyses also differed of their findings regarding the prevalence of autism when taking a look at children by race and ethnicity. The report from earlier this 12 months showed that black and Hispanic children were more prone to be diagnosed with autism than white children. This latest report found no differences within the prevalence of autism based on a toddler's race or ethnicity.