Estimated Prevalence of Children With Diagnosed Developmental Disabilities in the United States, 2014–2016

Questions for Ben Zablotsky, Ph.D., Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Estimated Prevalence of Children with Diagnosed Developmental Disabilities in the United States, 2014-2016.”

Q: Why did you decide to analyze children with diagnosed developmental disabilities?

BZ: We decided to analyze children with diagnosed developmental disability because children diagnosed with developmental disabilities typically require a substantial number of services and treatment to address both behavioral and developmental challenges.  Measuring the prevalence of children with these conditions aids in assessing the adequacy of available services and interventions that may improve long-term outcomes.


Q: Can you explain the differences between the diagnosed developmental disabilities studied in this report?

BZ: The three conditions studied in this report included autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, and any other developmental delay.  All three conditions are considered to be developmental disabilities.  Autism spectrum disorder refers to a group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in social communication and the presence of repetitive or restricted interests.  Intellectual disability is a term used when there are limits to a child’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life.  Other developmental delay serves as a catch-all for children who are delayed for various developmental milestones, for example taking first steps, smiling for the first time, and speaking.


Q: What do you think is the most interesting demographic finding among your new study’s findings?

BZ: I found the fact that the prevalence of any developmental disability was lowest among Hispanic children compared with all other race and ethnicity groups to be the most interesting finding.  The prevalence of any developmental disability among Hispanic children was 4.69% compared to 7.04% for non-Hispanic white children, 6.20% for non-Hispanic black children, and 6.16% for non-Hispanic other children.


Q: Are there any previous reports released from NCHS on diagnosed developmental disabilities in children?

BZ: Yes, this report can be viewed as a follow-up to a National Health Statistics Report (No. 87) from 2015, where the prevalence of any developmental disability in 2014 was also reported (5.76%).  The current report shows this prevalence subsequently increased to 6.99% in 2016.


Q: Can you explain the methodology used for this analysis?

BZ: Children with developmental disabilities were identified through a series of survey questions within the child component of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) from 2014 to 2016.  Characteristics of these children were examined, including whether differences exist in prevalence by survey year.


Q: What do you think is the take home message from this report?

BZ: There was a notable increase in the prevalence of developmental disabilities between 2014-2016, which is largely the result of an increase in the prevalence of children diagnosed with developmental delay other than autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability.

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