Autism epidemic grows as World Autism Awareness Day is marked

Posted at 9:24 AM, Apr 02, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-02 10:52:03-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - New government statistics show more children than ever before are being diagnosed with autism. In fact, researchers say autism is now an epidemic, impacting 1 in 88 children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that 40 percent of kids were not diagnosed until age 4.  However, evidence shows children who are identified early have a good chance of reaching their potential.

The CDC studied the medical and educational records of more than 300-thousand eight-year-olds in 14 states.

Researchers were looking for a diagnosis or symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD.   ASD refers to a group of symptoms, including a profound inability to communicate, mental retardation, and other development disorders, from mild to severe.

While autism can’t be cured, treatment including intensive behavior therapy can help children function better.

The study found no connection between autism and childhood vaccines, but researchers believe genetics may play a role.   Researchers are also investigating a mother’s illnesses or medication during pregnancy to see if there’s any possible links.

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association will update and make significant changes to the definition of autism, which could significantly reduce the number of children given a diagnosis.