HEALTH -- December 18, 2009 at 4:03 PM ET
Report: Nearly 1 Percent of Children Diagnosed with Autism
Nearly one in every 110 8-year-olds in the U.S. has been diagnosed with a form of autism, according to a federal study released Friday. The study, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also found that the disorder occurs four times as often in boys as it does in girls.
Autism symptoms actually spread across a range of disorders known as autism spectrums disorders -- which include autism, Asperger disorder and others. People with an autism spectrum disorder have trouble with social interactions and communication.
The new numbers represent an uptick from the 1-in-150 prevalence found in a previous CDC estimate, but they align with the results of a telephone survey study the CDC released in October, which found that about 1 in 100 children had autism.
The new study analyzed the medical records of more than 300,000 children in 10 communities across the U.S. The medical records are from 2006; the previous CDC study had looked at records from 2002. The researchers chose to look at 8-year-olds because autism has usually been diagnosed by that age.
Experts don't know whether the rise in autism diagnoses reflects an actual increase in the prevalence of the disorder, or whether it's simply being diagnosed more often.
But study author Catherine Rice, a researcher at the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said they couldn't rule out that it was actually occurring more often -- due to an increase in the age at which women are giving birth, environmental factors, or other unknown reasons.
"This is a major issue," Gary Goldstein, the president of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, which treats children with developmental disabilities, told the Baltimore Sun. "[...] We need to have recognition and early intervention and we need research to understand what's causing all this stuff."