The number of children identified as having symptoms of autism has ballooned in the last decade, with one in 88 US children having symptoms in a government study released.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of eight-year-olds with some symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder had increased by 78% since its first study was conducted in 2002. The figure had increased 23% since a report released three years ago based on data collected in 2006.
The most recent study looked at eight-year-olds in 14 areas of the country during 2008 and included children with autistic disorder, Asperger's and other forms of the disorder. It was far more prevalent in boys than girls, one in 54 to 1 in 210.
Autism is a health emergency
The developmental disorder leaves children socially withdrawn with a range of symptoms that can include not talking, sensitivity to touch and anxiety with changes in routine. The cause is unknown, but genetic and environmental factors are both believed to play a role.
"The CDC's new estimate of autism prevalence demands that we recognise autism as a public health emergency warranting immediate attention," said Geri Dawson of advocacy group Autism Speaks.
"More than ever, these numbers compel us to redouble our investment in the research that can reveal causes, validate effective treatments and guide the effective delivery of services to all our communities." (Sapa, March 2012)
Parent training helps with autism behaviour