A new government survey finds that more than 2 percent of U.S. kids have been diagnosed with autism — or 1 in 45 children aged 3 and older.
That seems like a startling increase from the last estimate of 1 in 68 kids.
But the researchers are quick to point out that the latest survey was done in a new way, asking parents different questions about their kids and any diagnosis of autism. They say it's probably the most accurate estimate yet, and stress that it almost certainly doesn't show some big increase in autism actually occurring among children.
Instead, they say, it's clear that doctors are changing the way they diagnose autism, and that parents are far more likely than in years past to seek a diagnosis for their kids.
"One in 45 is what we think is the most accurate parental report of autism to date. I think within this report we found that the way that we ask the parents about autism spectrum disorder can have an impact on the way the parents respond to the question," said Benjamin Zablotsky, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics who helped lead the study.
"We feel we are asking the question in a better way than before," he said.
It's a hot topic in the U.S., with many parents and advocacy groups saying something must be happening to make so many kids develop autism. Other experts say it's almost certainly more likely that the condition is being recognized and diagnosed more often.