(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), making it more common than ever before.

This rise, according to information released by the CDC, marks a 23-percent increase since the previous report in 2009 — and a 78-percent increase since the first report in 2007. Part of the increase, the CDC release explains, is “due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their local communities, although exactly how much is due to these factors in unknown.”

Other findings from the report include:

  • The number of children identified with ASDs varied widely across the 14 Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network sites, from 1 in 47 (21.2 per 1,000) to 1 in 210 (4.8 per 1,000).
  • ASDs are almost five times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).
  • The largest increases over time were among Hispanic children (110 percent) and black children (91 percent). The CDC suspects that some of this increase is due to greater awareness and better identification among these groups. However, the report says, this finding explains only part of the increase over time, as more children are being identified in all groups.
  • There were increases over time among children without intellectual disability (those having IQ scores above 70), although there were also increases in the estimated prevalence of ASDs at all levels of intellectual ability.
  • More children are being diagnosed at earlier ages — a growing number of them by age 3. Still, most children are not diagnosed until after they reach age 4, even though early identification and intervention can help a child access services and learn new skills. Through the program Learn the Signs. Act Early, the CDC provides free tools to help parents track their child’s development and free resources for doctors and educators. The CDC is also working with states and communities to improve early identification.

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

Follow Counseling Today on Twitter.