Twelve-year-old Dimitri Rivera has autism. His mother, Christina Huertas, saw signs when he was just 2.
"He stopped talking," Huertas said. "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."
A new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 1 in 50 school age children has autism, a figure that is much higher than a recent government estimate of 1 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.," said Michael Rosanoff, the associate director of public health research and scientific review at Autism Speaks.
Health experts say the new estimate doesn't necessarily mean autism is rising, but suggests that doctors are 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," Rosanoff said.
Experts say if you have any concerns about your child's development, talk to your pediatrician because early intervention is key.
"Don't push it aside because the earlier you can get the help the better off your child will be," Huertas said.
Dimitri's mom says he's talking more thanks to early speech and behavior therapy and he's socializing more.
Many experts say the previous research that determined 1 in 88 children has autism is considered more intensive because it looked at medical and school records.
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