CDC Report: Autism Now Affects 1 in 68 U.S. Children

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with an alarming report Thursday: The number of U.S. children with autism has surged to one in 68, compared to two years ago when the figure stood at one child in 88. That reflects a 30 percent increase over a period of just two screenings. The Washington Post highlighted the news this week and explained that the CDC came up with its estimate by reviewing records in 2010 for 8-year-olds in eleven states. The agency also said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that records showed a significant increase in the number of children with higher IQs who fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum, along with a wide range of results depending on where a child lives.

The rising number of children diagnosed with autism has become a significant concern among Americans, but health experts still cannot unequivocally conclude whether children with autism spectrum disorders are simply becoming identified better, or whether the number of children who suffer some form of the disorder really is growing. In addition, the CDC found it especially interesting that the number of intelligent children with autism seems to be growing, and there is a significantly wide range of results depending on where a child lives. Coleen Boyle, director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, explained Thursday, “It could be that doctors are getting better at identifying these children, there could be a growing number of children with high intelligence [who are autistic], or it could be both.”

On account of the higher numbers witnessed by the agency Thursday, according to The Post, the CDC is in the process of launching a new initiative that emboldens parents to have their children screened for autism at an earlier age. Though most children are not diagnosed until they are at least 4 years old, there is now new encouragement from officials to screen them as early as 2 years old. That ensures that an early diagnosis can be made if necessary, and then parents can seek support early on.

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