Autism diagnoses surge by 30 percent in kids, CDC reports

Maggie Fox


The latest look at autism in the U.S. shows a startling 30 percent jump among 8-year-olds diagnosed with the disorder in a two-year period, to one in every 68 children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which did the survey, says the numbers almost certainly reflect more awareness and diagnosis of kids who would have been missed in years past. The new estimate for 2010 was a jump from one in 88 children in 2008, the last year for which numbers had been available.

“The number of children diagnosed with autism continues to rise,” the agency’s Dr. Coleen Boyle told reporters.

But the CDC noted that the numbers vary greatly from state to state, and it did not use a nationally representative sample, but a look at groups of children in 11 states.

“The number of children identified with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) ranged from 1 in 175 children in Alabama to 1 in 45 children in New Jersey,” CDC says in its report, based on a survey taken in 2010. The numbers from 2008 were first reported in 2012.

This would work out to about 1.2 million children under 18, Boyle says.

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a child neurologist at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, who was not involved in the study, said he believed the numbers, but thought they reflected a rise in diagnosis, not "the true prevalence of autism."

“I'm not convinced that the true numbers of autism are rising, rising, rising every time we survey them,” Wiznitzer told NBC News in an interview.

“Over time, more children are being identified,” agreed Dr. Lisa Shulman, a specialist in autism at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York.

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