How Common is Autism?

Recent autism statistics show that ASD prevalence may be higher than we think. Just how common is autism?

According to 2018 data from the CDC, roughly 1 in 44 children receives an autism diagnosis. As science progresses in the study of autism, diagnoses become more reliable, even at an early age. Early treatment is crucial, so the earlier a diagnosis is received, the better the outcome for the child.[i]

Though autism occurs in both males and females, boys are diagnosed with ASD far more often than girls are. Contrary to the former belief that autism prevalence was simply higher in boys, recent research indicates that the discrepancy is more likely related to a higher ability in girls to “mask” autism symptoms. [ii]

The Drake Institute uses advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for patients with autism. Brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation help our ASD patients reduce symptoms and lead more fulfilling and successful lives.

For more information about how the Drake Institute treats Autism Spectrum Disorder and a number of other conditions, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.

What Is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that ranges from mild to severe and includes repetitive behaviors, impaired social communication, restricted interests, and rigidity.

In May 2013, autism was reclassified as Autism Spectrum Disorder, which includes disorders previously considered as separate disorders, like Asperger’s disorder, PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified), and childhood disintegration disorder. All these disorders are related to brain development and can affect how a person communicates and interacts with their world.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Autism?

Signs of autism can appear by the time a child is one year old, and the CDC reports that a diagnosis can be made at two years old. [iii]

Autism affects many areas of a person’s life, including behavior, communication, social interactions, interests, and more. In general, autistic people may struggle to make eye contact or hold a one-on-one conversation. Obsessive interests and repetitive behavior are other signs of autism.

According to the CDC, some common signs and symptoms of autism include the following: [iv]

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Doesn’t respond to name by 9 months of age
  • Lack of facial expressions (e.g., happy, sad, angry, etc.) by 9 months of age
  • Doesn’t play simple interactive games (e.g., pat-e-cake) by 12 months of age
  • Uses few or no hand gestures (e.g., doesn’t wave hello or goodbye) by 12 months of age
  • Doesn’t share interests with others (e.g., doesn’t show you their favorite toy) by 15 months of age
  • Doesn’t point to show you something interesting by 18 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice when others are hurt or upset by 24 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice other children and play with them by 36 months of age
  • Doesn’t pretend to be someone else (e.g., teacher, superhero, etc.) by 48 months of age
  • Doesn’t sing, act, or dance for you by 60 months of age

How Prevalent is Autism in the U.S.?

Autism statistics are constantly changing as scientific understanding and identification of the disorder improves. According to 2018 data, autism rates in the U.S. are around 1 in 44 children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The rates in boys and girls vary widely: 1 in 27 boys compared to 1 in 116 girls. The present percentage of people with autism worldwide, as reported by the CDC, is 1%. [v]

A reliable autism diagnosis can be made as early as two years old, but most children tend to receive a diagnosis after four years old. While autism affects all ethnicities and backgrounds, minorities often receive later diagnoses or may go undiagnosed.

Because autism is such a complex disorder with frequent comorbid conditions and can be misdiagnosed, how many people have autism is a difficult question to answer. Cases can go undiagnosed. Numbers indicating how rare autism is or how common autism is depends on early, reliable, or accurate diagnoses.

Are Autism Rates in the U.S. Going Up?

Autism rates in the U.S. have been rising. In 2012, 1 in 88 children had an autism diagnosis. That number rose to 1 in 68 in 2014 and again to 1 in 44, according to the latest data.

While the rates of autism are increasing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that prevalence is rising. Instead, as the scientific and clinical understanding of the disorder and its presentation advances, diagnosis becomes more reliable. And as parents, teachers, and childcare workers are made aware of the signs and symptoms of autism, early detection is more likely. [vi]

How the Definition of Autism has Changed

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, is a thorough guide to mental health conditions. The manual is used by healthcare professionals worldwide to correctly identify and diagnose various brain-based disorders.

In 2013, autism was redefined by the DSM-5 as Autism Spectrum Disorder. This reclassification was aimed at helping medical professionals achieve a more accurate diagnosis and identify the severity of symptoms with impairments to determine the level of support needed. This is categorized into ASD Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3.

To qualify for an autism diagnosis, the individual must have “persistent deficits in social communication/interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.”

These updated guidelines are meant to make diagnosis clearer and more accurate on the patient’s specific deficits so that they can receive the most appropriate level of help and support as needed [vii].

How is Autism Diagnosed?

Autism diagnosis begins with monitoring developmental milestones. During this process, parents, childcare workers, grandparents, and teachers who interact with the child regularly can help with observations.

By understanding the signs and symptoms of autism, one will be better able to notice possible developmental delays and identify potential neurodevelopmental concerns. Developmental monitoring will also take place during the child’s pediatric visits, where the nurse or doctor may ask specific questions about your child’s neurodevelopmental milestones.

Formal developmental screenings can occur during well-child visits at specific ages to ensure that milestones are met. These screenings typically happen at 9 months, 18 months, and 30 months. Thorough ASD screening should be done at 18 and 24 months.

If a developmental screening indicates that ASD might be a possibility, an ASD evaluation may be requested. The assessment will determine whether the child meets the criteria for an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis as established by the DSM-5. [viii]

Is Autism Genetic?

Autism is a complex disorder with varying degrees of severity of symptoms and impairment. A single cause has not yet been established, but genetic factors are considered to play a contributory role in many cases, as well as environmental factors.

How The Drake Institute Treats Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder can be significantly improved with the appropriate treatment protocols. The Drake Institute uses advanced treatment technologies like brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation to improve the symptoms of autism.

Treatments are non-drug and noninvasive, making them safe for children, teens, and adults. Moreover, these treatments address the underlying dysregulation of the brain linked symptoms.

Brain Mapping

The Drake Institute uses brain mapping to guide treatment. In this stage, our Medical Director analyzes the patient’s brainwave activity to understand what is happening with the patient. To do this, we record brainwave activity from 19 sensors placed around the patient’s scalp.

This brainwave activity is then processed through an FDA-registered normative database of neurotypical individuals to determine if any neural networks are dysregulated that may be linked to the patient’s symptoms.


Neurofeedback therapy is the next step in treating autism in boys and girls. After analyzing the results of the patient’s brain map, our Medical Director creates a neurofeedback treatment protocol for each patient’s specific needs.

These treatment protocols help reduce symptoms of autism by enabling the patient to guide their brain activity to healthier, more functional patterns. To maximize improvement in some patients, biomedical abnormalities may also need to be ruled out or identified and addressed.


In addition to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also include neurostimulation. We have found this to be particularly helpful for patients with more severe autism symptoms.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

For over forty years, Drake has helped patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, and hypertension to reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form.










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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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