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Autism on the rise in nation, more likely among boys

Published: Wednesday, March 20 2013 1:23 p.m. MDT

In this April 4, 2012, photo, Kelly Andrus plays with her son Bradley, in his classroom at Children's Choice Learning Centers Inc., in Lewisville, Texas. Bradley, who turns three in a couple of weeks, was diagnosed a year ago with mild autism. The Center for Disease Control recently estimated that 1 in 50 kids have autism, based on phone survey results.

Associated Press

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National survey results show one in 50 children have autism, the U.S. Center for Disease Control announced on Wednesday.

"Based on parent reports, the prevalence of diagnosed ASD in 2011–2012 was estimated to be 2 percent for children aged 6–17," according to the CDC report which was co-authored by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The new estimate from the CDC would mean at least 1 million children have autism, according to an Associated Press story.

This number is up from the 1.16 percent prevalence reported in 2007; that's about one in 86 children. The CDC found the results by conducting independent national phone surveys of more than 95,000 parents in 2011 and 2012.

The survey also found that boys are about four times more likely to have autism than girls. Some 3.23 percent of boys had autism, compared to 0.7 percent of girls.

Last year, in another study, the CDC found that out of the 14 states studied, Utah had the highest number of autism cases with one in 47 children. Alabama had the lowest number, with one in 210. That same study found the national average of autism prevalence to be one in 88 children.

According to the AP, some consider last year's report to be more accurate because it depended on actual medical data, not just parent surveys.

“One thing the data tells us with certainty — there are more children and families that need help,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, after last year's report. “We must continue to track autism spectrum disorders because this is the information communities need to guide improvements in services to help children.”

Some also think the increase in autistic kids could be a result of a recently broadened definition of autism.

"For decades, autism meant kids with severe language, intellectual and social impairments and unusual, repetitious behaviors. But the definition has gradually expanded and now includes milder, related conditions," according to the AP story.

Despite some doubts, CDC officials still think the survey provides a valid snapshot of how many families are affected by autism, said Stephen Blumberg, the CDC report's lead author.

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