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Autism rates rise again

U.S. prevalence estimate hits new high

New federal data indicate that 1 in 88 U.S. children had autism or other autism spectrum disorders in 2008, up from 1 in 110 kids in 2006 and 1 in 150 in 2002.

Although that’s a worrisome trend, reasons for autism’s rising prevalence — measured in nonrepresentative national samples of 8-year-olds — remain unclear. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta released the latest autism figures on March 30.

CDC researchers used health records, educational records or both to identify children with autism spectrum disorders in parts of 14 states. Data for more than 38,000 kids were consulted.

“Such a big increase in autism spectrum disorders in such a short time seems a little odd, and there’s a lot of noise in these data,” says psychiatrist Fred Volkmar of the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Conn.

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