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Autism diagnoses spike in U.S. children

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DENVER -- A tremendous increase in the number of U.S. children diagnosed with autism, between 2008 and 2010.

According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of reported cases is up 30%. National data shows one in every 68 children had an autism spectrum disorder in 2010. Two years prior, it was one in 88.

In the Denver metro area the number grew by 32%. However, it equates to about one in every  101 children.

Dr. Patrick Rydell is the founder and director of the Rocky Mountain Autism Center in Lone Tree. He says he’s not surprised. “The numbers don`t surprise me. I think it just confirms what many of us have known for a long time.”

He said pediatricians are referring more and more kids to their center, daily.

“If kids get early intervention, and are exposed to really good intervention, kids make a lot of progress,” he said.

Kids like Gary. Gary spent last summer at a camp in Longmont specifically tailored for children with autism.

Gary’s mom, Erika Norman-Gravseth said, “It was a hard time for him for a while, was trying something new and then when you go to the sports camp, they`re hitting you with something new over and over.”

Counselors like Deb Sullivan Gravelle, are trained to help. “You see how magical it is to see these guys out there doing amazing things, parents are always like - I never thought my kid could do that."

Gary’s parents are taking a proactive approach, but for some, camp can be out of reach. Dr. Rydell said, "Because there are so many kids and the funding is not there to help a lot of the kids, a lot of the kids don`t get the help that they need.”

According to the new data from the CDC, in Colorado, only 41% of the children with autism received an in-depth evaluation before they were three. Dr. Rydell says it’s vital to bring attention to autism spectrum disorder and get the funding to help.  “Left unchecked, this budget item will really grow because when these kids become adults, that`s when the budget item will grow so big that you can`t ignore it."

While the cause of autism spectrum disorder is still unknown, Dr. Rydell says he hopes this new study will shed some light on the future.

Additionally, the principal researcher for this new study says they don’t know if the increase reflects better awareness or a true increase in the number of children with autism.

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