CDC study reveals more children have autism than previously thought

OKLAHOMA CITY - Jimi Scott, 15, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was 3-years-old.

"It was mostly those subtle little signs of delayed speech and being social amongst his peers. He wanted to hide off,” Emily Scott, Jimi's mother, said.

Jimi couldn't speak until he was almost 5-years-old, but other symptoms of the disorder include sensitivity to loud sounds and other profound mental delays.

A new study by the CDC finds an increase in children being diagnosed with autism from 1 in 68 to 1 in 59.

The finding is based on groups of 8-year-olds living in 11 communities across the nation in 2014. Experts attribute some of the increase to better detection among minorities.

"We're probably missing some of the children in our under-served communities and now that gap between non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black children has decreased,” Dr. Bonnie McBride, director of the Oklahoma Autism Center, said.

Dr. McBride believes this study also proves more resources are needed for families who have children with autism.

"What we used to think of it as a low incidence disability, it is really no longer a low incidence disability and we need to move forward with funding appropriately," she said.

She says Oklahoma has a shortage of professionals who can give an early diagnosis.

It's one of the reasons the Oklahoma Autism Center was started. Their programs focus on early detection, connecting families with resources and training professionals on supporting children with autism.

Adrienne Christner’s  5-year-old daughter, Lilith, is receiving intensive intervention classes at the Oklahoma Autism Center.

"Almost everything in our daily lives we have to model for her, show her and then she learns it," Christner said.

Dr. McBride says the earlier we can give children treatment, the better off they will be as adults.

"I think it's really going to reach crisis proportions because we do have these children growing up, and with 1 in 59, we're going to need to address that more effectively," Dr. McBride said.

In 2016, Gov. Mary Fallin signed an autism insurance bill into law, which prevents state regulated health insurers from excluding certain treatments for children with autism.