According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 88 US children is autistic, and one in 80 children in Maryland has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder.
The report found that overall, autism prevalence rates increased by 78 percent from 2002 to 2008. In Maryland, the estimated prevalence of autism increased from 9.1 percent in 2006 to 12.4 percent in 2008.
"One thing the data tells us with certainty--there are more children and families that need help," said CDC director Thomas Frieden in a statement.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which include autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, are characterized by challenges with social communication and behavior. Symptoms typically develop or are recognized before the age of three.
For the report, researchers used data from 14 states, including Maryland, that are part of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Estimates varied widely across all sites; the results found that Utah had the highest prevalence of autism, at 21 percent per 1,000 children, while Alabama had the lowest, with 4.8 percent per 1,000.
Maryland had the seventh highest rate of autism out of the 14 states. However, researchers wrote that were it not for missing records, the calculated rate could have been 16 percent higher.
The report also stated that the prevalence rate for boys is five times higher than among girls. Rates also varied by race and ethnicity: Autism disorders are most prevalent among non-Hispanic white children than among non-Hispanic black or Hispanic children.
Currently, there is no known cure for ASDs. However, researchers note that the large jump in prevalence rates may be owed to increased awareness of the disorder and access to services. "Ongoing monitoring is an important tool to learn why more children are being identified with ASDs, and can provide important clues in the search for risk factors," they wrote.
To learn more about autism spectrum disorders, visit the CDC's website.