In the wake of new statistics that show more children are being identified with autism spectrum disorder, health authorities nationwide are urging parents to seek help early if they suspect their child may have the developmental disorder.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 children in the U.S. has been identified with ASD. The new figures are roughly 30 percent higher than previous estimates in 2012 when officials estimated one in 88 children had ASD.
Although ASD can be diagnosed as early as age 2, a federal report found that most children with ASD are identified after age 4. There is no cure for ASD but interventions can help children when introduced early.
“The most important thing for parents to do is to act early when there is a concern about a child’s development,” said Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, chief of the CDC’s Developmental Disabilities Branch. “If you have a concern about how your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, or moves, take action. Don’t wait.”
The latest data continue to show that ASD is nearly five times more common among boys than girls. Children with autism can have varying levels of intellectual ability. The federal study found that more children diagnosed with ASD have a higher IQ than before – almost half have average or above average intellectual ability compared to one-third of children 10 years ago.
Parents who have concerns about their child’s development are urged to talk to their child’s doctor. Local early intervention programs and school systems offer free evaluations for many children.
“More needs to be done to identify children with autism sooner,” said Coleen Boyle, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Early identification is the most powerful tool we have right now to make a difference in the lives of children with autism.”
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention news release
+ Read more about the benefits of early interventions for autism.