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CDC Estimates 1 In 50 Children Have Autism

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After years of treatment, Henry Schlaak has made remarkable progress after being diagnosed with autism. (CBS)

After years of treatment, Henry Schlaak has made remarkable progress after being diagnosed with autism. (CBS)

CHICAGO (CBS) – A new study indicates autism is much more widespread than previously thought.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says 1 in every 50 school age kids has autism—that is about 1 million children nationwide.

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley took a look at the study and meaning behind the new numbers.

Henry Schlaak, 12, has autism. His father saw the signs before Henry was three years old.

“He became non verbal, he wouldn’t look us in the eyes and very frustrated. He was living his life sort of in isolation, and disappearing from us altogether,” said Dan Schlaak.

However, through years of therapy and treatment, Henry’s autism, which was once classified as severe, is now considered mild.

“We’re very fortunate, at age 12, we’ve seen remarkable progress with Henry,” said Dan Schlaak.

The new CDC survey says 1 in 50 school age children have autism–a higher estimate than ever before.

Experts like Dr. Scott Hunter at the University of Chicago Hospitals believe the increase is due to better diagnosis of kids with mild symptoms. However, many children with mild cases are diagnosed later

“Many of these difficulties may have a tendency to be discounted early on, by pediatricians, as maybe just being immaturity,” said Hunter.

Dan Schlaak, who manages the Royal George Theater and is active in the group Autism Speaks, hopes better counting of kids with autism will eventually lead to better services.

“There is so much more training, so much more awareness, so many more schools are better able to handle kids on the autism spectrum,” he said.

The last CDC report in 2008 found that 1 in 88 kids had autism. That was based on school and medical records. The new study stems from a national phone survey of 95,000 patients.

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