More children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in recent years

Dr. Jennifer Ashton discusses what to know about the new study on autism live on "GMA."
1:58 | 04/27/18

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Transcript for More children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in recent years
We have another health alert. About an alarming spike in the number of children diagnosed with autism. New data just released by the CDC shows a 15% jump in just two years. Chief medical associate Dr. Jen Ashton is here with the details. Walk us through what the CDC found. Big headline from the CDC. They tracked the rates of autism roughly every two years and over the last two years they've seen a concerning jump. It used to be overall incidence of one in 69. Now it's jumped to 1 in 58. They looked at 11 sites throughout the country and 8-year-olds at those sites so it's not representative of the rates overall in the country. There are big state by state differences but again that's concerning number. So does it mean there's more autism or just better testing? That's the key question. The short answer is we don't know. There definitely is better diagnosis and saw particularly an increase amongst African-American and hispanic children which is good and bad because we know early diagnosis is so important for treatment and intervention and prognosis, but, again, we're more aware of it so diagnostic methods are definitely better but they vary. New Jersey has much higher rates than Arkansas so they're obviously able to detect, screen and diagnose in some states better than other. What's the most important things for people to know. Number one, parent, know the signs and sips. Basic milestones to be aware of are basically no smiling by 6 months of age, no babbling by 1 year of age. Pediatricians are looking at this closely and checking multiple times. The second thing, George, we really should be using appropriate language here. Not only for the condition but for sensitivity reasons. This is not an autistic child. It's a child with autism. That makes a huge difference. Medically accurate. You wouldn't say a cancerous patient. These children will become adults living with autism. From a public health standpoint we have to be ready to support that. Again, early intervention so important. Critical stuff. Jen, thanks very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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