One in 68 U.S. children have been diagnosed with an autism
spectrum disorder, up from 1 in 88 just two years ago, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week. Boys still
have it worse, with 1 in 42 diagnosed with the disorder.
"It's not surprising. I think the numbers reflect the increased
awareness of professionals and the public at large in
identifying kids at risk of autism and, if not autism, some other
developmental disability," says Dr. Alan Rosenblatt, a specialist
in neurodevelopmental pediatrics who advocates for children with
special needs at the local, state and national levels.
Rosenblatt, who is a member of Chicago Special Parent's Advisory
Board and the author of Autism Spectrum Disorders: What Every
Parent Needs to Know, says continued research is still needed
to understand all of the factors that cause autism.
"As we are able to increasingly understand the underpinnings of
what autism is, we'll be better able to come up with specific
preventions and the real hope is that there may someday be more
specific biological treatments for specific types of autism," he
He says he does expect the rate of increase to plateau, which
will then represent the true prevalence of autism. "I think much of
what we have seen in last few decade is resulting from the expanded
definition of autism," he says.
The CDC report also shows that the additional number of cases
are in the higher functioning kids. Now nearly half of the kids on
the spectrum have an IQ of 85 or higher where a decade ago, they
made up only 10 percent of the cases.
For its part, the American Academy of Pediatrics continues to
advocate for early screening, early diagnosis and timely referral
for effective intervention.
"The AAP is working to help make pediatric practices more
equipped to provide ongoing care to the many children with autism,"
says Dr. James Perrin, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP, in a news
release. "These rising rates certainly underscore the need to
improve our understanding of the causes of autism and to work on
The AAP also is urging Congress to reauthorize the Combatting
Autism Act, which it says has led to significant advances in early
intervention, behavioral treatments and understanding of the causes
Rosenblatt says studies are now being done on neurofibromatosis
and Fragile X syndrome, two known conditions that can cause
"It is exciting to know that at least in animal models the
specific biologic treatments have resulted in significant
improvement. We're still awaiting the trials of these specific
interventions in humans," he says.
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