The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found the number of children identified with autism spectrum disorders ranged from 1-in-210 children in Alabama to 1-in-47 children in Utah. The biggest increases were among Hispanic and black children, but officials said it was difficult to know if the increase was real or just better and earlier diagnosis.
"Doctors are getting better at diagnosing autism, but 40 percent of the children in this study weren't getting a diagnosis until after age 4 -- but earlier data showed many children were not getting diagnosed until age 4.5," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, told reporters during a telephone news conference.
"Many children are not being diagnosed early enough or not receiving services early enough, each parent observes their child the best and if any parent has any concerns they should discuss them with their doctor, ask for a diagnosis and ask for services."
The non-profit group Autism Speaks, on its Web site under its Learn the Signs of Autism section, says there are some red flags to look for including:
-- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by 6 months or after.
-- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by 9 months.
-- No babbling by 12 months.
-- No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months.
-- No words by 16 months.
-- No two-word meaningful phrases by 24 months.
-- Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age.