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Rate of Autism Holds Steady, But Testing Needed

New numbers from the CDC show autism affects about 1 in 68 U.S. children, and that rate is steady. But doctors say more testing is needed. (Wikipedia)
New numbers from the CDC show autism affects about 1 in 68 U.S. children, and that rate is steady. But doctors say more testing is needed. (Wikipedia)
April 7, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - April is National Autism Awareness Month and the numbers are holding steady in the U.S., according to the latest snapshot of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 8 year olds in 11 states and says 1 in 68 children is diagnosed as autistic, the same rate the agency found two years ago.

Dr. Stuart Shapira with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, says they found more children need to be tested at an earlier age.

"When concerns are raised, it's important that parents and providers move forward to get that first evaluation, and parents don't have to wait if there's concern," says Shapira. "They can go through their state's early intervention program and local school system, and get that evaluation for free."

The report also notes about a third of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder also had an intellectual disability, and young boys are almost five times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.

Dr. Daisy Christensen, an epidemiologist and the report's lead author, says overall there are fewer ASD cases among African-American and Hispanic children. However, she says that might be because they aren't being tested.

"So, lower autism prevalence in these groups of non-white children may be due to a lack of identification," she says. "And if so, then better identification efforts in these groups might result in increasing autism prevalence in those groups in future years."

Shapira says minority children may not have the same access to health care to be evaluated. He says there could be language barriers and other problems as well.

"And there also may be a lack of trust in the medical profession among individuals in these racial and ethnic groups," he says. "And fear that bringing attention to a child's symptoms could lead to greater stigma."

The report found only 43 percent of children identified with ASD across the nation got evaluated by age three.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV