About one in 88 children in the United States has autism or a related disorder, the highest estimate to date and one that is sure to revive a national argument over how the condition is diagnosed and treated, Reuters reports. The estimate released on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention represents an overall increase of about 25 percent since the last analysis in 2006 and a near-doubling of the rate reported in 2002. Among boys, the rate of autism spectrum disorders is one in 54, almost five times that of girls, in whom the rate is one in 252.

“One thing the data tells us with certainty – there are many children and families who need help,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said at a press conference.

The reported spike in the prevalence of autism and related disorders raised questions about whether it is real or an artifact of greater awareness that has led parents, teachers, and even health-care providers to see symptoms of autism in children who would not have received the diagnosis a generation ago…

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