FILED IN: Health

New study shows autism rates on the rise again

Better diagnosis, awareness cited as reasons for the climb in autism

Autism affects one in 88 children according to new federal health study. Image via Wikicommons.

A new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 88 children is affected with autism or a related disorder, a 25 percent increase over the last analysis from 2006.

Furthermore, the research indicates a 78 percent increase in diagnoses in the past decade.

The data, released by federal health officials today, is sure to ignite more debate over the causes and treatment of autism, a neural disorder that has received more national attention than ever in recent years.

“One thing the data tells us with certainty – there are many children and families who need help,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden told Reuters. “We must continue to track autism spectrum disorders because this is the information communities need to guide improvements in services to help children.”

The research tracked children in 14 U.S. states and marked the most comprehensive study of autism frequency to date. The study revealed boys are five times more likely to have the disorder and showed an increase in diagnoses for children with an I.Q. of 85 or higher. Popular belief previously held that autism mostly affects those with an I.Q. below 75.

Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, told

that the new figures show “a public health emergency that demands immediate attention.”

Some health officials say the data reflects greater screening and diagnosis of autism, rather than an actual increase of the disorder.

Doctors determine if a child has autism based on behavior judgments – usually done at age 8 – rather than blood work or neural tests.

The report did not shed any light as to the causes of autism, which remains largely a mystery. Debate persists over how much the disorder is caused genetically versus other factors.