Autism is on the rise, especially for minorities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In a new report released Thursday, the agency said that – for the first time – autism is being diagnosed more frequently in Black and Hispanic children then in White children in the U.S.
Furthermore, in 2020, one in 36 U.S. eight-year-olds had autism.
That count has increased from one in 44 two years prior.
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The new estimates suggest that about 3% of Black, Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander children have an autism diagnosis, compared with about 2% of White kids.
Historically, autism was most commonly diagnosed in White children, usually in middle- or upper-income families with the means to go to autism specialists.
As recently as 2010, White kids were deemed 30% more likely to be diagnosed with autism than Black children as well as 50% more likely than Hispanic children.
Experts have reportedly attributed the change to improved screening and autism services for all kids, and increased awareness and advocacy for Black and Hispanic families.
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“A big reason that the number has gone up, is simply that we are recognizing and identifying autism in kids who’ve always had autism, but who we missed before,” Dr. Lauren Kenworthy, director for the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Hospital, told FOX 5 New York.
Dr. Kenworthy told the station that she believes it’s clear that medical professionals are getting better at identifying autism but that “whether or not it’s more common remains a question.”
Nevertheless, it is unclear whether Black and Hispanic children with autism are being helped as much as their white counterparts.
A January study from Delaware and Stanford University researchers found that Black and Hispanic kids had less access to autism services than White children during the 2017-2018 academic year.
What stayed consistent in the report is that autism is significantly more common among boys than girls.
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Autism is a development disability that is caused by differences in the brain. Some people with autism spectrum disorder have a known difference, like a genetic condition, but other causes are not yet known.
There is no known biological reason why it would be more common in one racial or ethnic group than another.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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