CNN reported a study published on Monday in the Journal of Pediatrics that found an increase in the number of children with autism and related disorders in the United States. The number is up to 1 percent of children from the age of 3 to 17.

The study is based on the results of the federal government’s 2007 national survey of children’s health, where parents were asked by telephone if a health care provider had ever told them their child had an autism spectrum disorder. In a follow-up question, parents were asked if their child was currently considered to have ASD. Nearly 40% of the respondents said no.

The question is whether the original diagnosis of ASD was accurate since the disorders are not considered curable. To that point though, as therapists we see children who receive massive hours of early intervention after a diagnosis of ASD, and years later they are “undiagnosed,” due to great improvement in their social and language skills.

The new statistics may be accurate and autism may be on the increase or maybe we are better diagnosticians. According to the CNN article,

“The researchers urged caution in interpreting the change, noting that an increase in diagnoses does not necessarily mean that more children have the disorder. It could simply reflect a heightened awareness of the disorder.”

In any case, heightened awareness is good if we can identify children with ASD early and get them the early intervention services they need to make maximum progress.