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Developmental Disabilities > Autism Information Center > CDC Activities
CDC Activities

Recognizing the Early Signs of ASDs
Children develop at their own pace, so it can be hard to tell exactly when a child will learn a particular skill. But there are age-specific milestones designed to measure a child’s development in the first few years of life. To learn more about developmental milestones, visit “Learn the Signs. Act Early,” a campaign by CDC and national partners to educate parents, health care professionals, and child care providers about early childhood development, including possible early warning signs of autism and other developmental disabilities.

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Determining How Many Children Have ASDs
We don’t have a full count of all individuals with ASDs in the United States. But, data collected from autism spectrum disorder monitoring activities allow researchers to estimate the number of children that will eventually be diagnosed with an ASD. Information gathered from monitoring activities can help service providers plan for funding, personnel, research, and interventions. Following are activities that CDC conducts or funds:

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Brick Autism Project
In late 1997, a citizen’s group in Brick Township, New Jersey, told the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) about what seemed to be a larger-than-expected number of children with autism in Brick Township. Because of the complexity of the disorder and the citizens’ concern that environmental factors might play a role, the New Jersey DHSS contacted CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) for help. CDC and ATSDR worked together to find out how common ASDs were in Brick Township and to study the possible relationship of environmental factors to ASDs in the community.

The findings of the Brick Autism Project are reported in the following materials: 


  • Bertrand J, Mars A, Boyle C, Bove F, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Decouflé P.  Prevalence of autism in a United States population: the Brick Township, New Jersey, investigation.  Pediatrics 2001;108:1155-61.  [Read abstract]

  • Public Health Assessment: Brick Township Investigation  
    [Read HTML version]

  • Prevalence of Autism in Brick Township, New Jersey, 1998: Community Report [Read HTML version]  [ Read PDF version]

You will need Acrobat Reader to read this PDF file.  [Click here to get Acrobat Reader

Fact Sheets:

  • CDC/ATSDR Involvement in the Brick Township Autism Investigation [Read HTML version]
  • Investigation of the Prevalence of Autism in Brick Township - A Community Report [Read HTML version
  • Results of Brick Township Investigation of Environmental Pathways - A Public Health Assessment [Read HTML version]

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National Surveys
CDC conducts two nationally representative surveys that provide data on health conditions in U.S. children: the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The surveys were run independently during 2003–2004. Both were based on a nationally representative sample of non-institutionalized U.S. children ages 4–17. In both surveys, parents or guardians of the sampled children were asked about a range of health issues, including autism.

Autism prevalence was estimated from a question asking parents if they were ever told by a doctor or other health care provider that their child had autism.

Estimates of diagnosed autism were 5.7 per 1,000 school-age children from the National Health Interview Survey and 5.5 per 1,000 school-age children from the National Survey of Children's Health. Both surveys showed that boys were nearly four times more likely than girls to have been diagnosed with autism.

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Early ASD Surveillance Development Project
CDC is funding three sites—the California Department of Health Services, Florida State University, and the University of Utah—to develop and test projects to identify the number of children under 4 years of age with ASDs. These pilot projects, funded for one year, will help find ways to get a more accurate picture of the prevalence of ASDs at earlier ages. Funding for this project began September 1, 2006.

Understanding the Causes of ASDs

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Vaccines and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Chart of CDC's Vaccines and Autism activities

Additional Vaccines and Autism information

You can also get information about vaccines and autism by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO or emailing us at

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Date: January 31, 2008
Content source: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities


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CDC seeks to give people accurate and timely information about public health and the Autism Spectrum Disorders.  We respond to requests for information from state and local agencies, health professionals, universities, and the general public. Please be aware that we cannot give medical or educational advice. We urge you to talk with your doctor about any questions and concerns. Your doctor either already has or can gather your personal medical history and status and can best answer your questions and concerns:


National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities



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