The number of children with autism spectrum disorder has increased by 10 percent in the past years across the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it is the highest prevalence of the condition since 2000.
CDC said autism rates have been growing in the past three decades in the country. In 2016, one in 54 children, aged 8 years, was diagnosed with the condition.
Boys remain at higher risk of being born with autism than girls. The agency said latest data shows the developmental disorder affects one in 34 boys and only one in 145 girls.
However, researchers have yet to find the reason why autism rates have been dramatically increasing. The CDC considers some factors that may have been contributing to the trend, such as increased screening, new diagnostic services, better documentation and changes in diagnostic criteria.
For the latest estimates, the CDC gathered data, including health and special education records, from 11 regional monitoring sites in the country. It found the number of children with autism consistently increased from 2000 to 2016, starting from one in 150 children and now at one in 54 children.
“We need to know how many children have ASD in order to prepare our communities and services systems,” Li-Ching Lee, lead researcher and a psychiatric epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a statement. “An ongoing and accurate estimate will help to develop realistic plans to support these children now, and later into their adolescence and adulthood.”
However, the latest CDC report did not find statistically significant differences in the autism rates between black and white children. It could be due to recent progress in the identification of the disorder.
“Although the gap related to the prevalence of racial and ethnic differences is closing, disparities in early intervention persist for racial and ethnic minorities,” Lee said. “Black and Hispanic children with ASD were evaluated at older ages and were more likely to have intellectual disability than white children.”
The CDC said the latest report should guide parents in monitoring their child’s development. The growing population born with the disorder should also prompt people to act quickly and get children screened immediately.