CDC estimates at least 1 million children have autism - KMSP-TV

CDC estimates at least 1 million children have autism

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SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WJBK) -

Are we underestimating the number of children who have autism?  A new government survey says yes.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Kash has autism.  He is getting specialized therapy in Berkeley at Beaumont's Hope Center.  Early on, his mom, Stephanie Smyth, knew something was wrong.

"He actually had a fixation on very specific things like string, chasing his shadow, looking at ceiling fans, and he is nonverbal.  He has never talked," she said.

The estimate used to be 1 in 88 children have autism, but now the CDC is saying 1 in 50 children have the brain development disorder.

"Autism is really a deficit in not only the communication or the language -- that tends to be one of the first pieces, they're not babbling, they're not talking -- but it's also that social relatedness and all that information that we get nonverbally," said Dr. Lori Warner with the Hope Center.

The new stat comes from a phone survey of nearly 100,000 parents.   The belief isn't that the rate of autism is rising, but just that it is being more widely diagnosed.  That really is the goal, catch and start treating autism early.

"In some studies, we're catching things as early as six to eight months in babies," Warner said.  "There are some developmental red flags that we note for our parents, and those are eye contact and responsivity."

The CDC now estimates the number of children with autism is at least a million, which is significant because the government looks at how common illnesses are when figuring out how to spend public health funds.  From leaders in the legislature to parents around the kitchen table, figuring out how to pay for treatment is a battle.

"We can't continue at this financial pace because it's just not realistic for a family," said Warner.

The State of Michigan just unveiled a new plan to help address the needs of families living with autism.  You can read more at www.michigan.gov/autism.

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