Developmental disability rates continue to climb, CDC says

Developmental disability continues to become more common among children in the US, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of children with any form of developmental impairment increased by 17.6 percent between 2014 and 2016 

While the numbers of children with autism and intellectual disabilities have remained stable, the broader increase was driven by other developmental delays, which are on the rise.

This most recent period of statistics maintain the steady annual climb of developmental disabilities over the last 15 years.  

Over the last three years, all forms of developmental disabilities have become steadily more common among US children, the CDC’s latest figures show

The CDC’s findings are based on the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which asked parents if a doctor had ever diagnosed their children with a developmental disability.

These impairments include a broad range of disorders that inhibit the ability of a child to hit developmental milestones, which are achievements like walking and talking that demonstrate the brain is changing as expected as a child matures.

The CDC broke the disabilities into three groups: autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, or ‘other’ developmental delays. 

In spite of the consistent increases documented in the CDC report, it excluded a number of conditions that it says have previously been categorized as developmental disabilities.

These include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and a range of other learning disabilities.

Developmental disabilities conditions are mostly believed to be caused by multiple factors. They are in part genetic, but are the parental behaviors, environmental exposures and delivery complications are also thought to play a role.

The report found that there are marked differences in what groups of children typically suffer from which types of disabilities.

For example, boys between the ages of three and 17 are more frequently affected by all forms of developmental disability. In particular, are twice as likely to be diagnosed with autism as are girls. This is a long-observed trend.

Some research has suggested that more genetic mutations are required to push females ‘over the diagnostic threshold’ for developmental disorders than are for females.

Hispanic children are least likely to be diagnosed with a developmental disability, according to the report, with a prevalence below five percent.

White children, on the other hand, were most at risk, and 7.04 percent suffering from one of the three disability categories.

Children between three and seven were most likely to have been diagnosed with a developmental delay, while rates were highest among eight- to 12-year-olds for all other disabilities, and lowest for the oldest age group (13-17).

The report suggests that these variations ‘may reflect recent improvements in awareness and screening for developmental delay, resulting in younger cohorts having a higher diagnosed prevalence.’