BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Autism is a developmental disability in the brain that experts say can easily be managed thanks to an early diagnosis.

According to the CDC, a 2020 study found one in 36 children were estimated to have a form of autism. 

That is compared to a 2018 study showing only one in 44. While rates of the syndrome are increasing, diagnoses are improving. For that, experts credit a recent increase in awareness and improved screening.

“We describe that entity now as Autism Spectrum Disorder. At first, we thought it was a developmental delay then we thought it was Oppositional Defiant Disorder. But now we’re recognizing more, more and more, and in that category, that most of the cases are coming in that gray zone,” said Dr. Asim Zamir, Chief of Pediatrics at Valley Baptist Medical Center.

When testing for autism, doctors monitor communication skills, social interaction as well as restrictive and repetitive behavior. 

Early testing for autism can make a difference in a child’s development. 

Experts say early testing allows parents to get the necessary resources to help their children. 

In 2020, research from the CDC found autism is more prevalent among Hispanic and African-American children.

Autism is also more prevalent in boys compared to girls, yet girls may hide some signs by copying other children… making it hard to diagnose.

“They are most obsessive with one thing. They like certain kinds of music, certain kinds of video movies, or certain kinds of toys, they’re obsessed with that, and they just keep playing with it. You can give them five toys, and they just pick that one,” said Dr. Zamir.

Other signs of autism include getting upset by minor changes, repeating words or phrases, delays in speech, and avoiding eye contact to name a few.