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Autism in Children in Arizona's Hispanic Community Increased by 144 Percent, Latest CDC Report Says

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a much-anticipated nationa- autism-prevalence report today, and it says the number cases of autism among children in Arizona's Hispanic community has increased by 144 percent of the previous national average.

The study, conducted by the CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, focused on 11 states -- including Arizona -- and, overall, the prevalence of autism in America has increased from one in 150 people to one in 110.

The increases in prevalence within minority communities rose 91 percent since 2006, the last time the study was conducted.

Officials at the Autism Society are crediting much of the increase in minority communities to the inclusion of Arizona's Hispanic community.

Marguerite Colston, vice president of the Autism Society, tells New Times that the 2006 survey didn't include a state with a large Hispanic community, and while the disease itself is increasing, the huge increase in the percentage is based more on diagnostics.

Colston says a lot of cases of autism within Arizona's Hispanic community had gone undiagnosed, or were diagnosed late, which can severely impede the development of a person with autism.

In other words, while a 144 percent increase is alarming, it's based more on the fact that Hispanics were more prominently included this time than they were in past studies. 

While part of the increase can be explained by better diagnosis, Colston says, there is still an increase in the disease itself.

The study is important, according to Colston, because it shows that more research needs to be done to understand the environmental factors of autism, like environmental toxins and the health of parents.

The key to treating autism is early diagnosis, and Colston says children who are diagnosed by age 2 develop at a much faster rate than children diagnosed later in life. She hopes the study will help lead to earlier diagnoses for all children with autism.

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