MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When Johanna Burke’s 11-year-old son Aiden was born, children his age stood a 1 in 150 chance of being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“That little boy has to get up every day and learn to live and adapt in this world, and it’s so incredibly hard for him,” Burke said.
And it’s harder for more and more kids like Aden. A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder is growing.
According to the report, entitled “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder among Children Aged 8 Years,” the CDC estimates that 1 in 68 U.S. children have been identified with ASD. That’s about 30-percent higher than in previous studies.
Sue Pederson is with Minneapolis-based Fraser, a leading provider of services for children and adults with autism.
“I don’t think it’s something to be seen as sort of fear induced,” Pederson said.
Research continues into the exact cause of ASD, looking into everything from environmental factors to genetic defects.
“We don’t really know causation of autism spectrum disorders,” she said. “What we do know is that physicians are more aware of the prevalence, the symptom, sort of the red flags – the early signs.”
Some facets that didn’t change include the racial and gender prevalence of ASD. Boys are five-time more likely to be identified with ASD than girls, and white children are more likely to be identified than their black or Latino peers.
Michael Rosanoff of the advocacy group Autism Speaks says part of the increase in prevalence is due to better detection.
“However, we still feel that we’re underestimating the prevalence of autism in the U.S.,” Rosanoff said.
Most children are also still not diagnosed with ASD until after they turn 4, although some can be diagnosed as early as age 2.
The report also reveals that the intellectual ability of children with ASD is higher than in previous reports, with 46 percent having average or above-average IQ scores. And the number of kids with intellectual disabilities is dropping.
The CDC urges parents to monitor their child’s development with free milestone checklists, which cover factors such as speech, movement, play behavior, learning and social interaction.
Contact your child’s doctor if you are concerned that they may be showing traits associated with ASD. Also, your child does not need to be diagnosed in order to receive services.
The CDC says research shows the earlier the diagnosis is made, the better.