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CDC Reports 30 Percent Increase In Autism Diagnoses

LOS ANGELES ( — The federal government is reporting a dramatic increase in how many children are being diagnosed with autism.

New figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now show one in 68 children in the U.S. have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Two years ago, that number was one in 88 - marking a roughly 30 percent increase. But health officials say that doesn't mean it's more common - it may mean it's just being recognized and diagnosed more frequently.

Wyatt Jackson, a curious, artistic and loving 12-year-oldfrom Hidden Hills, was diagnosed at age three.

His mother, Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, is now executive director of ACT Today, a non-profit organization that helps families of children with autism find support and treatment.

She hopes with these new numbers, people will take notice.

"Wyatt was the happiest, most beautiful baby boy. He was completely typical, normal, healthy. Somewhere around the able of 16 months or so he started some have a lot of tantrums," she told KCAL9's Lisa Sigell.

"If this is not the a wake up call to America that we need to do something on a national scale, we are going to have an even bigger crisis down the road. We are going to lose a generation of children," she said.

Wyatt's language skills, Nancy explained, were also delayed. His pediatrician said, 'Wait and see,' but things went from bad to worse, and so did the tantrums.

"Finally, a neighbor suggested to me that he had autism. He was three then," she remembered.

While the disorder can be diagnosed as early as age two, most children aren't diagnosed until age four. Experts say an early diagnosis is key.

"Studies have shown again if you get in early you can make the greatest amount of change," Vista Del Mar Autism Services Director Dr. Brian Roper said.

The CDC report also shows ASD is nearly five times more common among boys than girls. The number is one in 42 for boys, compared to one in 189 for girls.

Dr. Roper said many factors can account for the numbers.

"I think there is increased awareness and our diagnostic tools have gotten better," he explained.

Wyatt is meanwhile making progress every day in intense applied behavior analysis, or ABA therapy - considered the gold standard in treating autism. He's also in school, working each day to gain skills others take for granted.

"He has a best friend. He has sleepovers. He goes to parties. He has play dates," Nancy said.

"Wyatt may never get married, have children, but my dream - my husband and I have a dream - that he will be independent one day."

More information about ASD can be found via the following links:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

ACT Today

Autism Speaks

Center For Autism & Related Disorders

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