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Childhood Autism On The Rise

Rutgers researcher Walter Zahorodny

The childhood autism rate continues to rise, and New Jersey's rate is the highest in the nation.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 59 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2014, a 15 percent increase from two years earlier.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez says prevalence in New jersey is nearly double the national rate, with about 3 percent of children in the state affected.

"These increase rates only mean we need to redouble our efforts, keep up the pressure, continue expanding research, screening, and support services for Americans with autism spectrum disorder."

Tom Buffuto , the executive director of ARC of New Jersey, says the findings are a wakeup call.

“When we see these numbers we clearly have to do a better job of diagnosing children on the autism spectrum disorder earlier and we must get them into early intervention programs so they get the support and service they need as soon as possible.”

Rutgers researcher Walter Zahorodny says undefined environmental risks contribute to the increase, but it might also be due to better awareness.

"In New Jersey the child is more likely to be identified with autism and if he or she has autism, to be identified earlier and to receive interventions sooner than in most other states."

Researchers intend to launch a large scale autism screening initiative in New Jersey to help identify children with autism who go undetected before the age of 3.