Autism is much more common than previously thought

Autism is more common for U.S. children than previously thought, according to a report out Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest figure reveals that 1 in 59 kids have autism, a lifelong brain development disorder that impacts social interactions, learning and communication.

That estimate is up from 1 in 68 in 2016.

The data comes from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

“The tracking system gives estimates of the prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder among more than 300,000 8-year-old children from 11 communities across the U.S.,” according to the report.

Researchers aren’t sure whether autism is increasing or if improvements in recognizing and diagnosing the condition have inflated the numbers.

The attention to the disorder is important, “because children identified early with autism and connected to services are more likely to reach their fullest potential,” the report notes.

The new numbers also point to how affected populations are changing.

“Autism prevalence among black and Hispanic children is approaching that of white children,” said Stuart Shapira, associate director for science at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“The higher number of black and Hispanic children now being identified with autism could be due to more effective outreach in minority communities and increased efforts to have all children screened for autism so they can get the services they need.”

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