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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
25 Mar 2023

NextImg:Autism Rates on the Rise: New CDC Data

More U.S. children than ever now have autism, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One in 36, or 2.8 percent, 8-year-old children have autism in 11 communities in the country, researchers said in a study published in the agency’s quasi-journal.

That’s up from one in 44 in 2018 and one in 150 in 2002.

The communities are part of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, a CDC-funded program established in 2000 “to collect data to better understand the number and characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities living in different areas of the United States.”

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is a developmental disability that can manifest in different ways, typically including difficulty communicating and interacting with other people.

The network has sites in 11 states, including Arkansas, Maryland, and Tennessee.

Researchers counted a child as having autism after reviewing medical records and finding an autism diagnostic statement in an evaluation, a classification of autism in special education, or an autism medical code.

Boys were far more likely to have autism than girls.

The CDC says the communities “are not representative of the entire United States.” Other federal programs reporting autism prevalence are meant to be nationally representative. The last nationwide estimate among youth, or children aged 3 to 17, was 2.9 percent.

Another new paper published by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, studying 4-year-olds in the same autism monitoring network, found that more 4-year-olds were being diagnosed with autism from 2016 through early 2020 when compared to the previous four years.

Neither researchers nor other CDC officials could say definitively what was driving the increase in autism.

Some officials and experts believe the autism rate is not increasing. It’s an increase in diagnoses, they say.

“Our best guess, consistent with the general rise in autism prevalence rates, is that it is more equitable access to evaluations and diagnoses,” Kelly Shaw, a CDC epidemiologist and one of the researchers, told TODAY.

Causes of autism are still being researched but include genetics and environmental risk factors such as advanced parent age, according to Autism Speaks, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of autistic people. One recent paper concluded that genetics carry a significant risk. Other studies have indicated exposure to certain materials, such as aluminum, could be a cause.

Outside groups chided the CDC for not investigating the root causes of the leap in autism prevalence estimates.

“These new data … are a profound indictment of the CDC,” Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense, which works to end what it calls “the epidemic of chronic childhood diseases,” said in a statement. “It is willful blindness to knowingly and intentionally look away from the true causes of autism for over twenty years—during which time the rates have risen above 300%—is nothing short of criminal. The country and the world desperately need new leadership to defend children’s health.”