The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new numbers on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) today, revealing a 30 percent increase from 2012 reports. One in 68 children in the U.S. have been identified with an ASD.
However, just because the numbers have increased, that doesn't necessarily mean that the actual number of cases has risen.
Researchers say that early detection has been a major factor in the increase in data, along with identifying cases that weren't ever reported properly. "There has certainly been an increase in awareness, and that drives families toward earlier action," Rob Ring, chief science officer with Autism Speaks, told the Huffington Post. In addition, doctors are on the lookout for telltale signs, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has implemented guidelines for screening, which means more children who might have slipped through the cracks earlier on are now getting the proper help.
Other findings from the data show that, as expected, boys are five times more likely to have autism than girls—one in 42 boys is affected, while only one in 189 girls is.
Researchers are all in agreement, though, that while detection has been happening earlier and earlier, it's not early enough for some. According to the report, most children are diagnosed after 4, while advances have enabled doctors to diagnose as early as 2. Ring notes that many children are simply "missing out on the transformative benefits" that early diagnosis offers.