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Study authors say more children are being diagnosed with autism because of better awareness.
The number of children with autism in the United States has jumped 78 percent in the past decade, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The latest data estimate that 1 in 88 American children has some form of autism spectrum disorder, CNN reported.
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Among boys, the rate of autism spectrum disorders is one in 54, almost five times that of girls, in whom the rate is one in 252, according to Reuters.
The new estimate means autism is nearly twice as common as officials said it was only five years ago, and likely affects roughly 1 million US children and teens, The Associated Press reported.
"One thing the data tells us with certainty — there are many children and families who need help," CDC Director Thomas Frieden told Reuters. "We must continue to track autism spectrum disorders because this is the information communities need to guide improvements in services to help children."
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Mark Roithmayr, president of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, told CNN more children are being diagnosed with autism because of "better diagnosis, broader diagnosis, better awareness, and roughly 50 percent of 'We don't know.'"
He told CNN the numbers show there is an epidemic of autism in the United States.
The data was collected by The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring network, an organization funded by the CDC to track autism rates. For this report, the ADDM reviewed medical records of 8-year-old children from 14 different areas across the country, ABC News reported.
The study focused on 8-year-olds because most autism spectrum diagnoses are made by that time, although the signs of autism are often seen much earlier, according to ABC News.