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Autism Diagnoses on the Rise, Says New CDC Report

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A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on March 30 announced that 1 in 88 children is now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, by age 8, reflecting a dramatic increase in diagnoses in the past decade.

The CDC Web site includes not only the full report but also a summary page that provides an overview of the findings on prevalence, risk factors and characteristics, diagnosis, and economic costs.  Some highlights:

  • About 1 in 88 children has been identified with an ASD, according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.
  • ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
  • ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).
  • Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with an ASD with an average prevalence of about 1%. A recent study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%.
  • About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. has a developmental disability, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech impairments to serious developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism. 

With this news, more parents, educators, and medical professionals may be wondering whether a growing environmental threat could be the source of the problem. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times by reporter Alan Zarembo, however, gives voice to another perspective. “Autism researchers around the country said the CDC data—including striking geographic and racial variations in the rates and how they have changed—suggest that rising awareness of the disorder, better detection, and improved access to services can explain much of the surge, and perhaps all of it,” according to Zarembo.

One thing is clear: autism spectrum disorders are affecting a growing number of families. Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, sums up the reaction of many in the autism community:  “With the new [CDC] numbers now showing that 1 in 88 children in the United States are being diagnosed with autism—nearly a doubling of the prevalence since the CDC began tracking these numbers—autism can now officially be declared an epidemic in the United States.”

ASDs have touched the lives of many of us at PAR, as well, and we are committed to supporting research and services in our community to help families dealing with autism.  On April 21, PAR staff members will be participating in the 2012 “Walk Now for Autism Speaks: Tampa Bay.” This annual event brings together “Team PAR” with thousands of other local autism supporters to raise funds for autism research.  Last year, PAR was one of the top fundraisers for the Tampa Bay area—a record we hope to top this year!

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