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Autism rate higher in NC

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The rate of autism spectrum disorders in North Carolina exceeds the national rate, which is higher than previously thought, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is a huge wake-up call for the community,” said Kim Shufran, executive director of the iCan House, a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem that educates and supports people with social challenges and their families. “We cannot ignore data like this.”

About 1 in 70 children have an autism spectrum disorder in North Carolina, according to a news release by Julie Daniels, a researcher at UNC Chapel Hill who collaborated on the CDC study.

In the United States, about 1 in 88 children have ASD, higher than previous estimates released in 2009, which found 1 in 110 children diagnosed with autism or a related disorder.

Health officials attribute the increase largely to better recognition of cases, through wide screening and better diagnosis. But the search for the cause of autism is only beginning, and officials acknowledge that other factors may be helping to drive up the numbers.

Several central North Carolina counties, including Forsyth, were used as part of the national study. In central North Carolina, 525 children were identified with autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder from among 36,913 children who were 8 years old.

This article was written by Bertrand M. Gutierrez and originally published by The Winston-Salem Journal. Click here to read more.