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Rising number of Arkansas children diagnosed with autism, UAMS research shows

A rising number of young children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. New research from UAMS and the CDC found the disorder in 1-in-44 8-year-olds.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A rising number of young children have now been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in Arkansas, according to a new study from UAMS and the CDC.

The new report shows that 1-in-44 8-year-olds in Arkansas have autism spectrum disorder. The numbers are part of national data released by the CDC, with Arkansas seeing a number that's in line with the national average.

"Our purpose is to determine how common autism is in the population you have. We do this by looking at healthcare records and educational records," said Maya Lopez, Arkansas Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring researcher at UAMS.

Their research study started in 2018, and also included 4-year-old kids. 

"Across the network there's no differences between races, between kids identified among white, Hispanic, Black of intellectual disability. But, in our state there's still a discrepancy," said Lopez.

Research shows that for every 1,000 children, 14.9% of Hispanic children are diagnosed with autism compared to the 19.2% Black children and 23.8% white children. 

Lopez said it's important for parents to get a diagnosis early on. 

"If they see that there's a difference, what I would suggest is they discuss this with their childcare provider," said Lopez.

There are resources available such as the Arkansas Autism Foundation, which aim to help connect families who can relate. 

"When we first started our journey with autism, my oldest son's on the spectrum. It was a lesson. Honestly, it's been several years now and I feel like I still learn things everyday," said Lauren Ramsey with the foundation. 

She said the large numbers of children with autism doesn't surprise her.

"Sometimes you just feel like you're alone in this and that's why we want to make sure that we as the foundation try to support the families," said Ramsey.


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