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CDC: 1 in 150 Kids May Have Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorders More Common Than Previously Believed, CDC Says After 14-State Study

Geographical Trends

The report also tracked ASD prevalence rates from 2000 to 2002 in six of the states -- Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

During that time, disease prevalence was stable in four of the states, but rose 17% in Georgia and 39% in West Virginia.

"While the stability of ASD's in four of the six sites is encouraging, the increase in two sites is a concern," says CDC behavioral scientist Catherine Rice, PhD.

"We cannot make conclusions about trends in ASD prevalence at this time," she says. "However, continued monitoring of ASD prevalence in these sites will help us answer that question starting with children born in the 1990s."

Increase in Autism?

"For decades, autism was believed to occur in four to five per 10,000 children," Yeargin-Allsopp told reporters.

"Studies done in more recent times have been summarized as ASD occurring in two to six per 1,000 children. As a general statement, we have used the figure of up to 1 in 166 children have an ASD, based on recent studies done in multiple countries," she says.

"It is extremely difficult to accurately estimate the number of children who have an ASD," Yeargin-Allsopp says in a CDC news release.

"Medical records often do not provide such information, and identification is often made by schools or education specialists," says Yeargin-Allsopp.

"Because autism is a behavioral condition, children are often diagnosed at different ages, and many are not diagnosed until they enter school," she says.

Goal: Earlier Diagnosis

Delays in diagnosing the disorders is one of the CDC's concerns.

Rice notes that most children identified with an autism spectrum disorder "had documented concerns by a parent or professional before three years of age, such as concerns about the child's language, social, or play development.

"But the median age of earliest ASD diagnosis was approximately 4.5 to 5.5 years," says Rice.

The earlier children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, the sooner treatment can start.

Due to the benefits of early intervention, it's "essential to ensure that children receive optimal early intervention services," states the report.

Experienced doctors using standardized methods "can reliably diagnose autism" in children as young as 2 years old, the report says.

Study's Limits

The report tracks statistics. It doesn't address ASD causes or reasons for geographical patterns in prevalence.

"We hope this information ... will be part of the larger public and private effort to understand the impact of ASDs, the causes of the disorders, and the most effective interventions to provide in order to help each individual reach their full potential," Rice says.

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