A new report reveals what appears to be a notable jump in the number US kids with an autism spectrum disorder, Live Science reports. According to a previous CDC estimate from medical records in 2010, one in 68 children had autism. But a new study states it's closer to one in 45 following interviews with nearly 12,000 parents in 2014. (It's an even bigger jump from a one-in-80 estimate that was based on interviews from 2011 to 2013, though researchers blame that dramatic increase on a change in interview methodology.) Experts believe these new numbers are the most accurate estimate. "We do believe autism is more prevalent, but we have long believed that the one in 68 number is an underestimate," the director of public health research at Autism Speaks says, per CNN.
This new estimate is important for two reasons. One, the old estimate of one in 68 already had public health officials worried and resources maxed out, the Washington Post reports. It now falls to the country to figure out how to help an increasing number of kids with autism. Second, it fuels the debate about what's causing the steady increase over the past decade. According to Live Science, some researchers believe the jump is due to the increasing awareness and lessening stigma of autism. The Post reports others are looking to environmental factors as possible causes. Ultimately it may not matter. "The fact that we have one in 45 children with a very serious neurological condition is a catastrophe by any measure,” the president of the Autism Society of San Francisco says.