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Autism More Common Than Thought

A new survey in the United States indicates that approximately one in every 150 children in the country has autism, suggesting the condition may be more common than previously thought. Earlier studies had placed the prevalence of autism at one in 166 American children. Paul Sisco has more.

The new survey of children with autism is the largest and most comprehensive ever undertaken. It shows that about 560,000 children in the Untied States have the condition. Wendy Stone's child is one of them. "I'm hoping that one in 150 is alarming enough to the government and our health care providers for them to pay a lot of attention."

Autism is a little-understood neurological and behavior syndrome that interferes with a child's ability to relate or interact with others. Many of its victims are withdrawn and have difficulty speaking. The new survey by the Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention is not a nationwide study and is based on data from only 14 states. Still, many in the medical community, and among support groups, found the numbers staggering.

Lee Grossman, with the Autism Society of America, says the numbers may be higher. "It actually validates what we've been saying all along. The numbers of people being with autism is much higher than what had been previously stated."

The U.S. Congress recently allocated $945 million to learn more about the condition.

Grossman says the funds may not be enough. "We need to go back to Congress and the agencies to ask for more services for this growing population."

More money on research is needed because very little is known about possible risk factors for autism, what causes it, or even how to recognize it biologically. It is known that if an autistic child is identified before the age of three, intervention is much more effective.