The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report stating that 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on records from 11 different states that evaluated the health and educational records of 8 year olds. This is a 30 percent increase from the 1 in 88 statistic that was released just two years ago. More from CNN.com:
Children with autism continue to be overwhelmingly male. According to the new report, the CDC estimates 1 in 42 boys have autism, 4.5 times as many as girls (1 in 189)."We look at all of the characteristics of autism," says Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
"So we look at the age in which they're identified. We look at their earliest diagnosis. We look at co-occuring conditions that these children might have, other developmental disabilities, whether or not they have intellectual disability, so essentially their IQ."
The largest increase was seen in children who have average or above-average intellectual ability, according to the CDC. The study found nearly half of children with an autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability -- an IQ above 85 -- compared with one-third of children a decade ago.
The report is not designed to say why more children are being diagnosed with autism, Boyle says. But she believes increased awareness in identifying and diagnosing children contributes to the higher numbers.
More than 5,300 children are represented in the data contained in the new report, she says.
"We comb through records. We accumulate all that information and then each one of those records is reviewed by a specialist to make sure that that child meets our autism case definition," says Boyle. The definition of autism is unchanged from the 2012 report.
One thing that hasn't changed over the years is that children are still being diagnosed late. According to the report, the average age of diagnosis is still over age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed by age 2.
The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the better their chances of overcoming the difficulties that come with the disorder.
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