Autism on the rise–new data suggests

April 3, 2012 by cpehrson

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new data this month that estimates that one in every 88 children (11.3 per 1,000)  in the U.S. has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

The previous estimate was one in 110 children.  The latest figures were released on Thursday, March 29, 2012, and come from recent studies which used data from 2008 collected in 14 sites across the United States.  This new number means that autism affects roughly 1 million children.  According to Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, autism is now “officially becoming an epidemic.”

Some feel that the rate increase can be attributed largely to a better recognition of autism through wider screening  and better diagnosis, but it is not clear  if we are seeing the result of better detection or a real surge in autism.

“One thing the data tells us with certainty–there are many children and families who need help,” states Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director.

Here at the Center for Persons with Disabilities, many efforts are directed towards autism: research in our Biomedical Laboratory; identification and diagnosis through our ASD Clinic; direct early intervention and preschool services; training through the URLEND and IOTI programs.

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities has been tracking autism and other autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for over a decade. More children are  being diagnosed at earlier ages–a growing number by age 3, according to the CDC.   Still, most children are not diagnosed until after they reach age 4, even though early identification and intervention can help a child access services and learn new skills. This is why CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. program is essential. Through this program, CDC provides free tools to help parents track their child’s development and free resources for doctors and educators.

The increasing incidence of autism highlights an urgency to address a critical need that individuals and families living with autism have– support and services.

Early screening and diagnosis can have a significant impact, leading to improved educational and social outcomes, employment and independent living. It becomes increasingly important that families know the signs of autism as early as possible,  receive appropriate services, and are provided the support they need. 

Please take this opportunity to look into the autism services that are available in your community and be ready to point someone you may know in the right direction.

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