HARRISBURG, Pa. - The numbers of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders have surged, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and advocates in Pennsylvania are not overly surprised.
Those new numbers show one in 68 children tested has autism, a 29 percent increase since 2008.
Brett Spitale, executive director of Greater Pennsylvania Autism Speaks, says while his organization would like to see those numbers going the other way, there is an upside.
"The earlier that we can intervene with services, behavioral services and any kinds of therapies that are available to our families, the better off that child is going to be down the road," he advises. "So intervention and early intervention is definitely a big thing right now inside of our community."
In Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Autism Services estimates that there are 55,000 children and adults with autism, based on 2013 figures.
Spitale says the ultimate goal for groups such as Autism Speaks is being involved in finding a cure. He says, in the meantime, tracing the origins of autism is a top priority.
"Whether it's environmental is certainly something we are still looking into," he says. "Whether it's biomedical is something that we're still looking into as well, but we know it's happening in the womb now, which is extremely important for us to identify."