Just in time for April’s National Autism Awareness Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the prevalence of autism in the United States has increased.
Data shows that an estimated 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This is an increase from 2012’s estimates that 1 in 88 children had autism.
Children diagnosed with autism also have on average higher levels of intelligence now compared to the past several years, according to the CDC report.
The report added that autism is consistently more common in boys than girls. For instance, only 1 in 189 girls have autism compared to 1 in 42 boys.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics may explain why autism occurs less often in women. Researchers found that women with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism generally have more genetic mutations than men.
Therefore, researchers believe that it takes more genetic mutations to trigger autism in women, which suggests that they are protected from autism. However, since autism tends to be harder to diagnose in women, participants might have only included the most severe cases.
Although these findings are important, autism involves much more than scientific intrigue.
Celina Miller, an advocate for the organization Autism Speaks and the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, said in an email that she hopes as part of the awareness month that people begin to realize autism’s impact on families.
Women tend to have a lead role as the caregiver in families, so they face many challenges when caring for children with autism, and need support from family and friends.
“Autism not only impacts the child diagnosed, but siblings and parents as well,” Miller said. “Siblings may have difficulty understanding the complexities of autism.”
Marriages or romantic relationships can also be impacted by autism.
“My husband and I intentionally focus on our relationship and keep it a priority,” Miller said. “Life with a child affected with autism can bring special challenges. We choose to face these challenges as a team.”