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First, here's some background on autism. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition closely associated with a variety of behaviors and difficulties in social communication. People with autism may find it challenging to talk to and connect with people in "conventional" means of conversation. A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 45 children have the condition. That's a sharp rise from previous data from the 1970s, which stated that one in 2,000 kids were on the autism spectrum.
What's behind that trend? A lot of it has to do with raised awareness. Doctors, psychologists, and parents alike have all become more familiar with the autism spectrum. Medical and mental health professionals are sharing information about autism more regularly with families. In addition, Asperger's disorder is now included as part of the autism spectrum. Doctors are also moving patients from general categories of "intellectual disability" to Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism has also become much less stigmatized in recent years. In the U.S., medical insurance now has to cover treatment for mental health, including autism. Physicians are having better luck identifying symptoms at early ages and creating therapy plans to meet children's needs.
Spike in Autism Numbers Might Reflect Rise in Awareness (Scientific American)
"About one in 68 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism, according to the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data."
Autism rates are up, but is it really on the rise? (Science Mag)
"The number of U.S. school children placed in special education programs due to autism more than tripled from 2000 to 2010, to nearly 420,000. But a new study argues much of that increase likely came as educators swapped one diagnosis for another."