Experts at the CDC attribute the increase to better awareness of and identification of the disorder, especially among black and Latino children who were previously underrepresented in federal counts. Many doctors may be reluctant to jump to an autism diagnosis in a younger child, because they are "trying to be cautious and not alarmist", Hazlett said. As has historically been the case, the researchers also found ASD to be more common among boys than girls, with 2.7 percent of boys being diagnosed compared to 0.7 percent of girls. In addition, although 85 percent of the children had developmental concerns noted in their health reports by age 3, only 42 had received an actual developmental evaluation by that age.
Estimates of autism varied widely among the 11 communities in the report, although five reported similar estimates of 1.3 percent to 1.4 percent. Having access to this information may boost states' prevalence, says Christensen.
The Georgia Department of Public Health, which has an early intervention program, said it has established partnerships with key stakeholders such as Emory Autism Center, Marcus Autism Center and the Georgia Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics "to ensure that children are screened, evaluated and receive behavior intervention services by appropriately trained personnel".
"Autism is the fastest-growing disability category in the country", Wes Dotson, director of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research at Texas Tech, said. This year also marks two decades since The Lancet published a now retracted study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that falsified a link between measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. Autism can't be cured and its cause still isn't clear, although it could be related to genes, or to do with having too many nerve connections in the brain. Now there is just more awareness, and we're just seeing it more.
The 1.7 percent rate is higher than 1 in 68 (1.4 percent) reported in the last two biennial reports issued in 2016 and 2014.
The lag between the first concern and the first evaluation may affect when a child with autism can begin receiving needed services.
The new numbers also point to how affected populations are changing. Children with autism often face social challenges, communication problems and intellectual deficits, but research suggests some of those hurdles may be overcome with early, intensive therapy.
Higher numbers don't mean more children with ASD - they mean we're simply seeing what would once have flown under the radar.
"These are true influences that are exerting an effect, but they are not enough to explain the high rate of autism prevalence", said Professor Zahorodny. This rule artificially inflates the number of DSM-5 diagnoses, says Fombonne: Roughly 15 percent of children who received a DSM-5 diagnosis did not have sufficient behaviors to warrant this status based on DSM-5 criteria alone. "Act Early" campaign. Its aim is to help identify developmental concerns early so that parents and health professionals are able to intervene to address potential problems as soon as possible.