CDC survey shows autism more common than thought

by: Diana Davis Updated:

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ATLANTA —

Newly released numbers from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey show autism may be more common than anyone thought.

Parents of children with autism, what's now called autism spectrum disorder, know that in severe cases it can be a tough road.

The new numbers from the CDC suggest the disorder is more common than previously believed, going from about one in 88 children to one in 50.

Experts told Channel 2's Diana Davis the new numbers don't mean autism is necessarily increasing, but that it may be diagnosed more often than thought.

Dr. Michael Morrier of the Emory Autism Center said that may be especially true in older school-age kids who may have slipped through the cracks.

"I think they were either not labeled or they were thought of as just sort of that 'quirky' kid in class or they might have been labeled as an emotional behavior disorder or ADHD," Morrier said.

The CDC numbers came from a telephone survey of nearly 100,000 parents.

Experts said these kinds of surveys may not be as accurate as others. Still experts who work with autistic kids say the new numbers are important and may play in role in insurance coverage and funding for autism, which might improve access to treatment.

"It's a good thing because these kids, I think if we know what to look for, then we can get them into services earlier," Morrier said.

Despite the controversy on just how prevalent autism may be, the CDC says the study still provides an accurate snapshot of what may be going on with autism.

No one knows for sure what causes autism, but genetics and some environmental factors may play a role.

"There is a genetic component that is interacting with some sort of environmental influences. What that environmental is, it's probably different for different kids and we're never going to find one specific cause for all these disorders," Morrier said.

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