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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — New estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest Autism is on the rise in the United States.

A new report from the CDC 1 in 59 children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder in the U.S.

That’s a 15-percent increase from two years prior and a 150-percent increase since 2000.

“It’s a significant increase,” said Dr. Thomas Frazier, Chief Science Officer of Autism Speaks. “Part of the increase is due to the fact that we have reduced disparities both in terms of identifying girls with autism and also African Americans and Hispanic children with autism but also part of the increase we are just not sure exactly why that is happening.”

The report also shows only about half of children get diagnosed by age 4.

Dr. Frazier says identifying these children earlier is critical.

“We know that if a child gets into early developmental behavior interventions that their outcome is going to be considerably better than children that don’t get access to those interventions.”

Autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disability, is characterized by problems with communication and social interaction with accompanying repetitive behavior patterns.

Autism Speaks says other possible reasons for the increase in prevalance may include that more people are having children later in life and  older parents have a higher risk of having a child with developmental disorders and other risk factors during pregnancy may also play a role.

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