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U.S. Autism Diagnoses Increases By 30 Percent in Children

One in 68 children are now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
JOPLIN, MO.--- One in 68 children are now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. These findings are based on the medical and education files of 8-year-old children from 11 states. That's a 30% increase from the last time the CDC released these numbers. Even though the number of diagnoses has changed over the years, parents say there are still things you can look for. Melissa Smith's son, Braylon, was diagnosed with autism at 18 months.

"You still have all these ideas about what they are going to be like when they are older, and I felt like all that kind of came crashing down," said Melissa Smith, Mother. 

Smith also has a 2-year-old son. Doctors advised her to be aware of her younger son's behavior and see if he had signs of autism.

"Watch what he's doing, if you see any signs, get him in because there is an increased risk," said Smith. 

Now, one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released these latest numbers for 2010.

"Experts in the field have always said the number would be up to a number of factors, like awareness," said Kristy Parker, Bill and Virginia Leffen Center for Autism Clinical Director. 

Clinical Director Kristy Parker says that increased awareness means more program funding.

"When you do that, you are able to extend services to more rural areas, minority communities, and then once the services are in place, then people hear about those and begin to seek diagonosis," said Parker. 

She adds that diagnostic teams are more prevalent since the last numbers were released for 2008.

"So you can imagine how many diagnostic and outreach clinics have opened since that time," said Parker. 

Even though the number of diagnoses may increase, Smith says one fact doesn't.

"One thing that has been consistent is early intervention is key, so keep your eyes open," said Parker. 

The clinical director says there is a benefit to the CDC releasing these numbers. It shows decision makers that there is an increased need for assistance for families with autistic children.

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