Growing need for autism services

By Audrey Wise

April 1, 2014 Updated Apr 2, 2014 at 11:46 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- New numbers this past week from the Centers for Disease Control reveal the number of children diagnosed with autism is on the rise.

A survey in 2010 shows a 30-percent jump among 8-year-olds diagnosed with the disorder.

The CDC says one in 68 children have an autism spectrum disorder, that is compared to one in 88 the last time numbers were released in 2008.

They also found that autism is almost five times more likely among boys than girls.

Steve Thompson, President & CEO of the local Easter Seals, calls the new numbers alarming.

While there is no known cause, no cure or single treatment for autism, the big question remains, why do the numbers continue to rise?

Logan Kellem, 7, was diagnosed two years ago with a high functioning form of autism spectrum disorder. Logan is just one of the hundreds of kids with autism seen at Peoria's Easter Seals.

Pediatrician Janet Patterson is part of their team that diagnoses children every day.

"We look at how the child interacts socially. We look at eye contact," said Dr. Patterson. "Atypical behavior such as playing with a toy but not in a way that the toy is meant to be played with, such as spinning the wheels of a car instead of running it along the floor."

She said the clinic is so busy right now they are scheduling new evaluations for families six to eight months in advance.

"It's a clinical diagnosis so it's based on what we see in the exam room. There are no specific blood tests to confirm," said Dr. Patterson.

The big question that comes from the CDC study is: are more kids being diagnosed because of awareness or do more kids actually have autism?

Thompson said it is hard to tell because he believes the methods for diagnosis did not change between the two years the surveys were taken.

He said, "It would seem that we're doing a better job of identification and I think that's part of it, but that does not explain all of it, so we're seeing a rise in this prevalence in real terms, not just identifying it more often."

Their goal now is to promote early identification and intervention.

Thompson said many kids aren't diagnosed until after four or older, but kids can be diagnosed as early as two.

"At Easter Seals we often say the sooner we start, the further they'll go," Thompson said.

Doctors said make sure your child is meeting developmental milestones and look for any early warning signs.

For a list of red flags parents should watch for check out the link above.

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