New research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder. That’s about 30 percent higher than estimates releases two years ago.
"It's a shock,” said Heather Rodriguez, mother to a 16 year old son living with autism. "It's great it's not as unique a condition as once thought.”
The CDC findings can viewed here .
Loretta Lopez, clinical director at Focus Academy in Temple Terrace, attributed the spike in part to greater awareness. She said parents and teachers are better able to spot warning signs, like lack of focus or repetitive play, early on.
The study also found autism is five times more common in boys than girls and that almost half of children identified with ASD have average or above average intellectual ability.
"The fact that we are recognizing that many students with autism have an average or above average IQ is important because it helps us make sure those students are getting the intervention they need,” Lopez said.
The CDC also found most kids are diagnosed after age 4 even though they can be diagnosed by age 2.
The CDC advised at the first suspicion of autism call a doctor or your school system for an evaluation. Lopez suggested the University of South Florida’s CARD program as a good resource .
Rodriguez said a preschool teacher detected her son’s ASD at age 4 1/2.
"I would say it made a huge difference because we could come to the grips of reality and be able to work towards social goals and really adjust expectations,” she said.