“It is now clear that what we saw in 2016 was just a pause along the way. It remains to be seen at what point ASD (autism spectrum disorder) rates will plateau,” said Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, who directed the New Jersey study.
That puts the national rate of autism at 1.7 percent of the childhood population and New Jersey’s autism rate at 2.9 percent.
New Jersey is known for excellent clinical and educational services, so higher rates of autism in New Jersey are likely due to more accurate or complete case finding, university officials said. Researchers in the 11 states analyzed information collected from the health and special education records of 325,483 children who were 8 years old in 2014.
“These are true influences that are exerting an effect, but they are not enough to explain the high rate of autism prevalence,” said Zahorodny. “There are still undefined environmental risks which contribute to this significant increase. We need more research into non-genetic triggers for autism," he said.