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New Numbers Raise Questions On Autism

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People who work with autistic kids in San Diego say news of increasing autism rates might not be bad news. Studies of autism rates, by the Centers for Disease Control, have shown that one in 150 American kids suffered the disorder. But a new study in the journal Pediatrics, which surveyed the families of 78,000 children, showed the number was one in 91 kids.

— People who work with autistic kids in San Diego say news of increasing autism rates might not be bad news.

Studies of autism rates, by the Centers for Disease Control, have shown that one in 150 American kids suffered the disorder. But a new study in the journal Pediatrics, which surveyed the families of 78,000 children, showed the number was one in 91 kids.

"That's a lot," said Aubyn Stahmer, the research director of the autism discovery institute at Rady Children's hospital. "It's unclear what's causing the increase. Certainly some of it is that we're diagnosing more kids we have a broader diagnostic definition of autism than we had 20 years ago."

Autism can severely impair a person's ability to communicate. But Stahmer says identifying more autistic kids is a good thing, in one sense, because quick diagnosis and early intervention leads to better treatment. She says many of the new cases are high-functioning kids whose disability was harder to spot.

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