NORTH MANKATO, MN - According to a new study by the journal 'Pediatrics', 1 in 40 kids are on the Autism spectrum.

Amanda Kestel, program manager at Minnesota Autism Center said, "We're not completely sure if the increase is due to better screening tools, more education, or if the rates are continuing to grow, but it looks like the national standards released by the journal of pediatrics closely aligns with project ADDM that came out for Minnesota previously."

Project ADDM was a 2014 study that focused on Autism in Minnesota. They found that 1 in 42 8-year-olds were on the autism spectrum.  So why are more kids being diagnosed?
"Previously an autism diagnosis was ruled differently and Asperger's was its own subset. Now with a change in the diagnostic criteria it's all under one umbrella of autism spectrum disorder," Kestel said.

Experts say identifying autism early is key. Parents could start seeing signs during the first year of a child's life.

"We're looking at things such as a lack of back-and-forth sharing at a young age. If you think of that baby, that infant, they're cooing, they're smiling, they're having that warm affect, but if you're not seeing that, that might be a sign. Also a lack of language is a really big key component," she said.

Once a diagnosis is given, early intervention with therapy is the key to improving a child's quality of life. Speech and occupational therapy are the most common. Children with more severe autism often need to be taught the most basic skills.
Kim Clippard, lead therapist at Minnesota Autism Center said, "Social interactions, teaching to dress and brush teeth or whatever it is they need to learn, we focus on those things."

These therapies can be life changing for a child with autism and their families.

"Whether it be talking or utilizing a speech device or something like that and to watch the looks on the parent's faces when they get to watch their children doing that. It is just amazing," Clippard said.

--KEYC News 12