HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Recent research shows an increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism. However, officials say this increase marks a positive change in the conversation about autism spectrum disorder.

April is Autism Awareness Month. It’s a time that health experts say is critical as new information and research continue to come out about autism spectrum disorder.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder is on the rise.

Experts like Dr. Patrick Quirk with the Longwood Psychological Center say research over the years has contributed to a better understanding of what autism really is.

“The research in this is just accelerating like crazy there’s so much stuff going on so many interesting things coming out of this like it’s this understanding that really just begins to say this is a different kind of brain,” Quirk told News 19.

Research conducted over the years has translated to a better awareness of how the disorder works.

“This phenomenon exists in people who don’t have it as severely and they function on a much higher level and that’s really what has opened up the awareness. It’s more of like we’re seeing what was always in front of us but we really didn’t understand what it was,” Quirk said.

Jessica Cotton is a parent of children who were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She believes the higher number of kids diagnosed with the disorder is because it’s become more socially accepted.

“Parents and even doctors were very hesitant about autism. I remember people not wanting to say their kids had autism. The social impact of autism is much different than it was 18 years ago,” Cotton said.

To help kids like hers, Cotton created Weird Kids Meet Up where children with autism disorders can have a welcoming space to make friends with similar people.

“We wanted to just really incorporate the idea that you can be whoever you are we are trying to create a safe space for all of these individuals to find resources within the community,” Cotton told News 19.

Weird Kids Meet Up is open to children from all different backgrounds.