PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Dimitri Rivera, 12, has autism. His mother saw signs when he was just 2-years-old.
“He stopped talking. At first he was saying ‘mama’ and ‘dada,’ looking at us, playing with us and then slowly we started seeing he wasn’t playing with his brother as much. He wasn’t giving us eye contact,” says his mother Christina Huertas.
A new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows one in 50 school-age children has autism; a figure that is much higher than a recent government estimate of one in 88 children.
The new numbers are based on data from a national phone survey of more than 95,000 parents.
“This study is clearly showing us that we are still underestimating the prevalence of autism here in the U.S.,” says Michael Rosanoff, the associate director of Autism Speaks.
The new estimate doesn’t necessarily mean autism is rising, but could be the result of doctors diagnosing the disorder more often, especially in older children with milder cases.
“While this study is showing us that prevalence is increasing in part because we’re getting better at identifying cases, the cases are still being identified too late,” says Rosanoff.
Dimitri’s mom says he’s talking more thanks to early speech and behavior therapy and he’s socializing more.
“Don’t push it aside,” says his mother, “because the earlier you can get, the help the better off your child will be.”
One of the earliest core symptoms of autism is a lack of social imitation.
If you have any concerns about your child’s development talk to your pediatrician.
Programs that work on social behaviors have been shown to improve interaction.