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One in 50 Children Diagnosed with Autism: CDC Study

Mar 20, 2013 08:25 AM EDT

According to a new federal report, rates of autism in the country are higher than previous estimates. Researchers now say that prevalence of parent-reported ASD is 2 percent, a significant increase from 1.16 percent in 2007.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

The data for the study came from 2007 and 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH). About 100,000 parents of children aged between 6 and 17 were asked about their health, including any autism diagnosis. Study analysis showed that one out of every 50 children was reported to have autism, USA Today reports.

Earlier reports on autism prevalence had shown that one out of every 88 children in the country has ASD.

Researchers reported that parent-reported ASD prevalence was 2 percent, which is higher than previous estimates of 1.16 percent. Boys and teenagers had the highest rates of autism prevalence.

"[This] study provides growing evidence that [the] U.S. is underestimating the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder," said Michael Rosanoff, associate director of public health research and scientific review at the non-profit Autism Speaks, in an e-mail to HuffPost. Rosanoff wasn't part of the current study.

Most experts say that the rise in numbers may reflect better counting methods by health researchers rather than an increase in the number of children with autism.

"I don't see any evidence that there's a true increase in the prevalence of autism," said Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University, Washington, D.C., reports USA Today.

The authors of the study themselves attribute the rise in numbers to increased awareness among parents about autism, access to better health care and screening.

"Changes in ascertainment of autism spectrum disorders could occur because of changes in autism spectrum disorders awareness among parents or health-care professionals, increased access to diagnostic services, changes in how screening tests or diagnostic criteria are used, or increased special education placements in the community," the authors wrote, reports Bloomberg.

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