Study finds rise in autism likely due to semantics

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HUNTSVILLE, AL-  The Centers for Disease Control found a 30 percent spike in autism diagnoses between 2008 and 2010. A new study suggests the idea that more kids are being diagnosed with autism is not from some catastrophe among U.S. children, but rather because they're simply being classified and diagnosed differently.

A spike in any type of medical condition is enough to worry any parent, but experts say the recent increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism is not cause for concern.

"We didn't have a clear definition of what autism was until about the 1980's. Now we have a much broader definition.  We're much more aware of the symptoms of the autism -- we're aware it's more of a spectrum," said Lindsay Chapman, a Certified Behavior Analyst.

A new Penn State study finds 97 percent of the increase in autism cases between 2000 and 2010 could simply be due to reclassification.

"A broader diagnosis really allows us to understand, doctors to understand, caregivers, teachers, therapists, what are the symptoms of autism; how do we see it, when should we let parents know that maybe something is going on?" said Chapman.

Chapman says reclassification and broader diagnosis is also a sign of more awareness.

"These children are being serviced in school more; there's more therapies, resources and that's a great thing. But it doesn't mean these children weren't there, there may have been more children classified with autism in the 1970's and '80s but we didn't have this diagnostic criteria," said Chapman.

For more autism resources visit the Madison Behavior Therapy website.