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Study Reports 1 in 50 American Children Have Autism

Update Date: Mar 20, 2013 11:12 AM EDT

Autism, a developmental disorder that presents in the early stages of life hinders the toddler from developing normal social and communication skills. This disorder, which can range from mild to severe, impairs the brain's development and appears to be on the rise in the United States. According to a new study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly one in 50 children from the ages of 6 to 17 have been diagnosed with some kind of autism. This number, which previously was one in 88 in 2007, indicates a huge numerical jump. However, several researchers believe that the number might still be underestimating the actual prevalence of this disorder.

"This estimate was a bit surprising. There may be more children with autism spectrum disorder than previously thought," the report author, Stephen Blumberg said. Blumberg is a senior scientist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

"This study added to the evidence suggesting that we are underestimating the prevalence of autism in the United stated," Michael Rosanoff, the Associate director for Public Health Research and Scientific Review at Autism Speaks, stated. "It's probably much higher."

The researchers took data from 96,000 American households via a national telephone survey in which the survey asked each family whether or not a child was diagnosed with autism. The data was already compiled by the National Survey of Children's Health that conducted the actual interviews. Despite this alarming new statistic, several scientists and experts believe that the number is still underrepresenting the actual number of children that autism afflicts. Researchers believe that autism often goes unreported because the diagnosis process for younger children can be difficult. Parents might not want to believe that their children suffer from a learning disability, and consequently do not seek care until much later on, which would explain why the number of diagnoses has increased for older children. Experts also stated that the process and technological advances available for older children make it easier for doctors to spot autism.

The scientists also noted that autism appears to show up in boys four times more often than in girls, which is consistent with several other statistics. Due to this prevalence, the study's authors stated that the higher percentage rate of autism could be attributed to new autism cases diagnosed in boys.

Whether or not this new number is a correct representation or an underestimation, it is still a high rate for this developmental disorder in the U.S. This number can be used in future research regarding children's learning and how treatments for autistic children can be bettered.

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