Autism Rates Higher Than Previously Thought, CDC Says

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The CDC released their latest numbers on autism today, and they are worse than previously thought. The CDC is reporting that roughly 1 in 88 children have autism or a related disorder, which is a 25% increase since their last report in 2006, and is double than what was reported in 2002.

“This is a national emergency and it’s time for a national strategy,” said Mark Roithmayr, president of the research and advocacy group Autism Speaks.

Researchers still continue to debate whether the increased numbers are due to a greater awareness of the symptoms and therefore more diagnoses of the disorder, environmental factors, or a combination of both.

“Inevitably when these statistics come out, the question is, what is driving the increase?” said Roithmayr, who believes that half of the reported increase can be attributed to broader diagnostic criteria.

The new report comes from data obtained by the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which operates in 14 states. The Network examined the medical records of 8-year-olds in those 14 states, and counted those children whose records included an explicit documentation of the child having autism, or a description of having behavioral symptoms consistent with the disorder.

The data also indicates that the rate of autism spectrum disorders is more prevalent in boys, with one in 54 being diagnosed with the disorder, while girls are one in 252.

CDC investigators stressed that while this data was representative of children in those 14 states, it “should not be generalized to the United States as a whole.”

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