The number of children with autism in the United States continues to rise, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest data estimate that 1 in 88 American children has some form of autism spectrum disorder. That’s a 78% increase compared to a decade ago, according to the report.
Since 2000, the CDC has based its autism estimates on surveillance reports from its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Every two years, researchers count how many 8-year-olds have autism in about a dozen communities across the nation. (The number of sites ranges from six to 14 over the years, depending on the available funding in a given year.)
In 2000 and 2002, the autism estimate was about 1 in 150 children. Two years later 1 in 125 8-year-olds had autism. In 2006, the number was 1 in 110, and the newest data — from 2008 — suggests 1 in 88 children have autism.
Boys with autism continue to outnumber girls 5-to-1, according to the CDC report. It estimates that 1 in 54 boys in the United States have autism.
Mark Roithmayr, president of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, says more children are being diagnosed with autism because of “better diagnosis, broader diagnosis, better awareness, and roughly 50% of ‘We don’t know.’”
He said the numbers show there is an epidemic of autism in the United States.
Early recognition of signs of autism — a neurodevelopment disorder that leads to impaired language, communication and social skills — is vital because it can lead to early intervention, says Dr. Gary Goldstein, an autism specialist and president of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.
“There have been studies — double-blinded studies — to show that behavioral early intervention changes the outcome for children,” Goldstein says.
Roy Sanders and Charlie Bailey sensed something was wrong with their son Frankie Sanders when he was 9 months old.