By Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun
6:51 p.m. EDT, March 29, 2012
One in 88 American children has an autism spectrum disorder, according to a new estimate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rate is 23 percent higher than one the agency released three years ago. Federal officials said some of the increase is attributable to better diagnoses, though it’s not clear how much.
“We don’t know what causes autism, but a lot of children have autism,” said Li-Ching Lee, a psychiatric epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and the principal investigator for the CDC’s Maryland data.
Maryland is among 14 states researchers sampled for the study, and the state’s incidence of autism is even higher than the national rate. One in 80 of the state’s children is estimated to have the disorder, based on a survey of 8-year-olds in 2008.
That’s up 35 percent from 1 in 109 such children two years earlier.
“One thing the data tells us with certainty: There are many children and families who need help,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, during a news conference Thursday. “We must continue to track autism spectrum disorders because this is the information communities need to guide improvements in services to help children.”