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CDC: U.S. Autism Estimates Rise by 30 Percent for Children

Researchers say increase could be due to better diagnosis of the developmental disorder

THURSDAY, March 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- One in 68 American children are now diagnosed with autism or a related disorder, according to a report published in the March 28 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That's a 30 percent increase from just two years ago when the estimate was one in 88 children.

The agency bases its estimates on reports from 11 communities that participate in its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. The newest estimate is based on data from 2010.

The new statistics continue to show that autism spectrum disorder is five times more common among boys than girls. The numbers also reflect an increase in the percentage of children being diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Estimates of autism among 8-year-olds have more than doubled since the CDC network's first report in 2007, which calculated that about one in 150 children had the disorder based on 2002 data. Most children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder after age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed as early as age 2. Almost half of children identified with autism spectrum disorder in the new study have average or above average intellectual ability, compared to one-third of children a decade ago. In addition, white children are approximately 30 percent more likely to be identified with autism than black children, and almost 50 percent more likely than Hispanic children.

"More needs to be done to identify children with autism sooner," Coleen Boyle, Ph.D., director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement. "Early identification is the most powerful tool we have right now to make a difference in the lives of children with autism."

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