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

More and more children are missing developmental milestones: survey

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

Developmental disorders include autism, mental disabilities resembling Down syndrome, and numerous other diagnoses which can be related to a baby 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 result of a rise in reports from parents who had been told by a health care provider 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 outgrow 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 more likely to have developmental delays as girls. This pattern was reinforced when looking specifically at autism diagnoses. Boys were greater than thrice as more likely 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 children by race and ethnicity. The report from earlier this 12 months showed that black and Hispanic children were more more likely to be diagnosed with autism than white children. This latest report found no differences within the prevalence of autism based on a baby's race or ethnicity.