New study shows autism diagnosis rates rising across the country

[anvplayer video=”5160649″ station=”998122″]

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows the rate of autism diagnoses in the United States has nearly tripled in the last 16 years.

Those who work in the autism community say the findings aren’t surprising.

Parents may see the study and be a little alarmed but experts say there’s no reason to be concerned.

The study looked at about 4,500 8-year-olds in the New York and New Jersey metro area across a 16- year span.

Some of the theories researchers have as to why there’s been a spike include better tools, screening and diagnosis, as well as a better understanding of what autism spectrum disorder is.

Reporting also increased, and all of this leads to higher numbers, but experts say that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“This is not entirely surprising, the number of people who are being diagnosed with autism is going up,” said David Nathan, a licensed psychologist with Allina Health. “As we have more data, we have more information, and the data supports the idea that more people meet criteria based on the testing standards that we have.”

Nathan says while the rate of autism has gone up, so has society’s understanding of the disorder. There are now more resources and early interventions available to families than ever before.

Those include specialty health care centers like Fraser, which works with more than 1,500 kids across the state who have autism.

It’s all about awareness — they say the stigmas that often go along with autism are also starting to go away too.

“We are really fortunate in that we have so many resources and we as a community, I think we really are doing a much better job at teaming together and trying to see how we can surround individuals and families and support them through their journey,” said Rachel Gardner, the vice president of center-based services at Fraser.

Experts with Fraser say the study is a reminder that not only is more known now than ever before about autism, but society is more aware of the strengths people living with autism ring to the table, and they say that is just as important.