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CDC: Number of children identified with autism is on the rise

The number of children with autism spectrum disorder has risen to 1 in 59, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control published Thursday.

CDC's last estimate in 2016 put the figure at 1 in 68.

"Researchers can't yet tell from the report whether autism is actually on the rise or whether the new numbers are due to improvements in recognizing and diagnosing the condition," reports CBS News.

One possible explanation is the improved identification of black and Hispanic children with autism.

“Autism prevalence among black and Hispanic children is approaching that of white children,” said Stuart Shapira, MD, PhD, associate director for science at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “The higher number of black and Hispanic children now being identified with autism could be due to more effective outreach in minority communities and increased efforts to have all children screened for autism so they can get the services they need.”

The report is based on reporting from 11 communities within New Jersey, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, the CDC notes.

"Estimates of autism varied widely among the 11 communities in this report, although five reported similar estimates of 1.3 percent to 1.4 percent. The highest prevalence estimate of 2.9 percent came from a community in New Jersey," the CDC said. "Some of the regional differences in autism prevalence estimates among the 11 communities might be due to differences in how autism is being diagnosed and documented."

April is Autism Awareness Month. Here is a list of ways it is being recognized in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania suburbs, South Jersey and Delaware.

If you would like to learn of similar events and stories related to children with special needs, you can sign up for our SpecialKids newsletter here and go here to get a free copy of our SpecialKids Guide. The 2018-2019 edition is coming out soon.

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