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World Autism Awareness Day: Local Research And Screening

Evening Edition

Above: Dr. Eric Courchesne, director of UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence, and Dr. Michael S. Nelson, pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente, talk with KPBS.

Aired 4/2/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Dr. Eric Courchesne, Director, UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence

Dr. Michael S. Nelson, pediatrician, Kaiser Permanente

Transcript

Shortly before World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control released updated statistics on autism, including the estimates that 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder.

"This marks a 23 percent increase since our last report in 2009," the CDC wrote on its website. "And, a 78 percent increase since our first report in 2007."

But Dr. Eric Courchesne, director of UC San Diego's Autism Center of Excellence, told KPBS it's important to ask whether that increase is due to better detection, or if more children are being affected.

"Detected or affected is the question," he said.

Courchesne said the study does show an increased prevalence. One in 57 boys and one in 252 girls will become autistic, he said.

But Courchesne hesitated to use the label "epidemic" that has sometimes been applied to the increase in autism cases.

"Before anyone starts talking about anything in the way of an epidemic, you really need to understand what the causes are," he said.

Dr. Michael S. Nelson, a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente, told KPBS autism can be detected early during well-baby checks. Pediatricians use questionnaires to ensure the baby is where he or she should be in terms of communication, social skills, development and coordination, he said.

Beginning at 7:30 p.m. Monday, the Geisel Library at UC San Diego will be lit up in blue for five hours, as part of a World Autism Awareness Day event. The Empire State Building in New York and the Sydney Opera House are among other buildings taking part.

KPBS Midday Edition intern Agnes Radomski contributed to this segment

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