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Researchers from the University of Arizona Health Sciences participated in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that estimates  1 in 59 children in the United States has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on tracking across multiple areas of the nation.

In Arizona, prevalence was slightly lower, with 1 in 71, 8-year-old children in Maricopa County identified with ASD. Since 2000, ASD prevalence has more than doubled in Arizona, but the current estimate was slightly lower than in 2008-2012.

Margaret Kurzius-Spencer, PhD, MPH, MS, assistant professor, UA Department of Pediatrics, and researcher with the UA Steele Children’s Research Center, and Sydney Pettygrove, PhD, epidemiologist and assistant professor in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, are co-principal Investigators for  the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (ADDSP). The ADDSP is the Arizona site of the CDC Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

Their team reviewed special education and clinical health records of 8-year-old children living within the boundaries of 11 school districts in Maricopa County during 2014 to determine the prevalence of ASD and intellectual disabilities in that region.

Key findings:

Complete Arizona findings are available at:

Web feature link:   This website will be available  Monday, April 30.

“The prevalence of autism has increased markedly since the early 2000s,” said Dr. Kurzius-Spencer. “We know there are many children living with autism who need services and support, both now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. More needs to be done to ensure children are evaluated as soon as possible after developmental concerns are identified.”

“Together, we can make a difference,” said Dr. Pettygrove. “Parents can track their child’s development and act early if they have a concern. Providers can acknowledge and help parents act on those concerns. Parents and professionals can join forces to ensure that all children with autism get identified and connected to the services they need as early as possible.”

The Arizona Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (ADDSP) is a joint undertaking with the CDC, the Arizona Department of Education and many other agencies and organizations that serve children with developmental disabilities and their families. The ADDSP has completed the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 surveillance years and is collecting data for the 2016 surveillance year.

About the UA Steele Children’s Research Center

The UA Steele Children’s Research Center is one of the prestigious Centers of Excellence within the UA College of Medicine - Tucson at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. It is the state’s only academic pediatric research center designated by the Arizona Board of Regents, and the only facility in Southern Arizona where researchers and physician-scientists are dedicated to advancing medical knowledge through basic and translational research to improve children’s health. As researchers, they seek to discover answers to children’s medical mysteries. As physician-scientists, they provide compassionate care to hospitalized patients at Banner Children’s at Diamond Children’s Medical Center and pediatric outpatient clinics throughout Tucson and the state. And, as faculty members with the UA Department of Pediatrics, they teach and train the next generation of pediatricians and researchers.