HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – There is a higher rate of children diagnosed with autism than ever before.
According to a recent study by the CDC, 1 in 44 children were diagnosed with autism in 2021, compared to 1 in 54 children diagnosed in 2020.
Jim Harris, associate director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center, said the high numbers surprised his team.
“You see a little bump here and there over the years, and the prevalence rate has increased over the years, but 1 in 44 has been released, and that shows you the need is increasing every year,”
Jim Harris, Associate Director of the Autism Training Center
He said that, based on the trends we have seen so far, we can only expect the numbers to increase.
Why are the numbers higher?
“One thing is that our communication systems are much better now. When you think about when they started collecting this data – even going back to paper files – who submitted the files, who collected them, and were there several different groups of people who weren’t communicating well in providing this information? Where we now have databases, electronic record keeping, and now things are a lot smoother, ”Harris said.
He said that with better technology, doctors are able to keep better records and detect signs earlier, leading to greater accuracy.
What signs should parents look for?
“It depends on the age and stage of your child. The key elements that we are specifically looking for are social communication problems, general communication problems, responsiveness in relationships and social communication. Sometimes you’ll see kids who also have repetitive behaviors, echolalia, an emphasis on sameness, you know that stuff, ”Harris said.
He said they are also looking to see if children are hypo or hypersensitive to sensory information like sounds, smells or lights.
Harris said he encourages parents or guardians to bring any concerns to the attention of a primary health care provider as soon as possible.