Interesting information in the National Children’s Health Survey

28 Aug

The National Children’s Health Survey (NCHS) has a lot of data and I think it’s worth the time to see what sorts of questions and informtion we can get from it. I’ve already discussed data from this a number of times, but these are questions I don’t see other’s asking.

The survey questions and the distribution of the answers for the entire population surveyed can be found here.

I’ll compare data from that document to how the same questions are answered for kids who are identified by the parents as “having autism or an ASD”.

So, going question by question (with me paraphrasing the questions), in no particular order:

Is child using a prescription med (non vitamin)

autistic: 45.7%
all famililies: 21.7

Not surprising that more autistic kids take prescription meds. It would be interesting to know what sorts of medications are common. I can’t find it right now, but I recall a recent paper that showed even higher numbers for adolescents and young adults.


autistic: 12.1%
all families: 3.4%

I am not surprised, but saddened to see that statistic.

Does the family have medical insurance:
autistic: 95.4%
all families: 92.4%

I’m sort of amazed that the numbers were that high for both groups.

Does the child have some form of state run medical insurance
autistic: 34.5%
non-autistic: 21.6%

Does medical insurance always cover costs?
autistic: 45.3%
all families: 69.5%

I am not surprised that parents have more out-of-pocket expenses for autistic kids. Just the question of whether autistic kids are less healthy (per our recent post) would suggest more out of pocket. More CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), more therapies like speech and OT, all of these would result in more out of pocket expenses for parents of autistic kids.

Has a doctor told you that [child] has a food or digestive allergy?
Autistic: 14.8%
all families: 5.1%

I’m half surprised that this statistic hasn’t been heard more–about threetimes higher food or digestive allergy? Then again, I think many would be surprised to see such a low number as 14.8%.

Again, this is a doctor telling the parent that the child has allergies. I imagine many parents are told this when seeing a DAN doctor.

Does the child have Eczema
autistic: 21.5%
non-autistic: 12.4%

Eczema does come up a lot in online discussions. Not as much as food allergies (specifically gluten and casein).

Are the kids living in a household where the parents are married?
69.4% of families who identified their child as autistic
74.0% of all families who responded.

There is a commonly quoted statistic that autism parents have a divorce rate of about 80%. This doesn’t support that.

This also doesn’t support the idea that 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce, but that is a strange statistic anyway.

did the child have fever or resperatory allergy in the last year
Autistic: 26.8%
general population: 18.0%

Does the child have bone, joint or muscle problems
autistic: 11.9%
total population: 2.3%

I would have expected this to be higher, given the number of kids in OT. Would a gross motor or fine motor problem be categorized as a “muscle” problem? I would think so.

Does the child have epilepsy/seizures
autistic: 7.1%
total population: 0.57%

I hear a lot of different numbers for how many autistic kids have seizures–I’ve heard up to 30% for autistic kids. However, this number (7%) is consistent with data from the California Department of Developmental Services, from what I recall.

Does the child have Asthma
autistic: 12.5%
total population: 8.7%

Does the child have speech problems
autistic: 40.0%
total population: 2.9%

Not surprising that this would be very high, in my opinion.

Does the child have developmental Delay
Autistic: 59.8%
total population: 2.67%

For autistics, the level of developmental delay is reported as:
18.6% mild
26.2% moderate
14.5% severe

it is interesting that 40% of autistic/ASD kids are not listed as having a developmental delay. This isn’t saying that 40% don’t have developmental delays–the question is more complicated than that.

I need to go back and check these data against kids with developmental delays. In other words, a good comparison is autistic kids vs. developmentally delayed kids in order to see if some of the conditions are autism specific or common in the developmental delay population.

5 Responses to “Interesting information in the National Children’s Health Survey”

  1. Ali August 28, 2009 at 11:47 #

    The last question is baffling. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. By definition alone all kids on the spectrum should have a delay in some area or another. Of course, by the time we are adults on the spectrum, what used to be simply social delays might be better conceptualized as social differences–we followed a different social developmental path rather than a delayed neurotypical path. But in terms of evaluation for services as children, there will always be a developmental delay of some sort, be it an obvious one (potty training or speaking) or a more amorphous sort (poor socialization skills).

  2. farmwifetwo August 28, 2009 at 12:55 #

    Actually I was told my son had a digestive problem from the Pediatrician. The Dev Ped said that the daily diahhrea was Ok, b/c “some children with autism were like that”… Once the dairy was removed and once discussed with the Ped, I got told differently.

    See, there’s this little thing called “family history” in our family…. I suspect the numbers are actually higher for autism because parents are looking for it. The teenager up the road from us has Crones and for years got told she had IBS… The teenager is home after major surgery a couple of weeks ago… Something that should have been dealt with as a child was ignored.

    Makes you go mmmmmmmmm…. eh??

  3. Dawn August 28, 2009 at 22:25 #

    @farmwifetwo: very interesting article. My younger child has complained intermittantly about stomach aches for years, once time was diagnosed as having gastritis, now was told IBS. Older child is dating someone with the same diagnosis but much more severe symptomology. Makes you wonder, since there is no family history for this as far as we know.

  4. Richard August 29, 2009 at 07:50 #

    Parents should regularly check the air quality as well as asthma and allergy allerts of the area they are residing. These informations could be known from the different websites that provide these kind of informations.By knowing these data, one can take precautionary measures against respiratory and other diseases.



  1. Is CDC to announce 1 in 100 autism rate? | MNH Kids – Ideas & Advice on Child Autism - December 19, 2009

    […] kids. It didn’t matter that the other dataset he was discussing in that same post, from the National Children’s Health Survey, didn’t support the idea at all. SafeMinds seems to be making the same arguments in their […]

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