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Increase in Autism Diagnoses Among Children

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The number of children in the United States diagnosed with autism continues to rise. A new report by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention shows a 30-percent increase in children diagnosed with autism compared to two years ago.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. --Arc of the Ozarks has worked with Jason Henson for five years.

"Jason is a young man that came to us with pretty significant autism difficulties," said Alisa Lowry, Director of Counterpoint Autism Services at Arc of the Ozarks.

Lowry and her team of trained professionals at Counterpoint have developed tailored support for many autistic individuals, like Henson. The program works with approximately 90 individuals with autism, ranging in age from birth to the fourties.

"We're seeing an increase in families reaching out for services and an increase in diagnosis," said Lowry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder-- this is a 30-percent increase from 1 in 88 two years ago. The CDC report is based on an evaluation of eight-year-old children in 11 states, including Missouri.

Lowry says awareness among families has changed over the years.

"They're more aware and therefore they're getting the diagnosis and I think that's why they're getting an increase in numbers," she said.

The CDC indicates autism can be detected at 18 months, and studies have shown early detection is key.

"The goal is to decrease any problematic behaviors they may be having and increase any socially appropriate behaviors or communication so they can function in a typical environment or a typical world," she said.

Basketball is one of the recreational therapies that helps with social interaction, communication, and sensory processing. In addition to sports, Counterpoint uses intensive intervention therapies and other techniques to help autistic clients.

"It can be very confusing out there," said Lowry. "There are a lot of services that are offered, which is a good thing."

But support can become costly for parents.

"There are several studies that report that it can cost up to $17,000 a year if you have a child with autism," she said.

Despite costs, Lowry says the growth in modern research and resources has created a significant difference in the lives of those with autism.

"Biggest thing for a family is if they experience something with a child that they're not sure about, that they go get help immediately," she said.
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