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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

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Study: Autism Cases on the Rise

A new report by the CDC showed that autism cases have increased and federal health officials think this is largely due to better diagnosis and wider screenings.

One in 88 children are diagnosed with autism and related disorders, an increase of 23 percent from 2009, which estimated one in 110 children were affected, according to a new research released Thursday.

This estimate is nearly twice as common as officials estimated five years ago and is now affecting nearly 1 million children and teens in the U.S.

However, the increase of children being diagnosed is thought to be attributed to the improved screening processes and does not necessarily mean that there is an increase in the actual development of autism.

The improved diagnosis and wider screenings have allowed health officials to better study the disease and see progressions at earlier ages, which coincides with the increased statistics.

The study found that autism is five times more common in boys than girls, and that it can be detected in children as young as 14 months old. The CDC report also stated that 11.3 of every 1,000 8-year-olds have an autism spectrum disorder and certain states have reported higher prevalences of children with autism than others.

In New Jersey, as many as 1 in 49 of the 8-year-olds had an autism spectrum disorder, where as Alabama had only 1 in 210 reported cases.

Contrary to previous belief, the study revealed that a large portion of children with autism have IQs of 85 or higher, with the majority (62 percent), above the intelligence quotient of greater than 70. Past assumptions related autistic children to IQs lower than 70.

The new figures indicate “a public health emergency that demands immediate attention,” Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of the advocacy group Autism Speaks stated.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that one person can have severe symptoms while others may have more mild symptoms, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Autism is not diagnosed by biological tests, but rather, based on children’s behavioral actions. Many autistic children suffer from unusual repetitious behaviors, sever language impairments, and problems with social cues.

The CDC is also studying the cause of autism, which is still unknown. Genetics is one theory, but researchers are also looking at factors such as medications pregnant women took and illnesses mothers had while they were pregnant.

Results from these tests are expected by next year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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