BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Stunning new numbers are out on the rate of autism in America. It is much more prevalent than previous estimates.

Gigi Barnett has the details on the troubling new research.

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Doctors say they now know what to look for when it comes to autism and they are finding many more children with the disorder.

Researchers say better diagnosis and more screenings may be behind the rise of autism in children.

According to a new study released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers found a 23 percent hike in the number of reported cases nationwide.

“It says that we have a lot of children that we need to be taking seriously in terms of giving them the best possible education, the best possible healthcare,” Dr. Rebecca Landa, head of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said.

Autism is a social developmental disorder. Back in 2006, doctors reported that one in every 110 children had autism.

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New numbers show it’s now one in 88 kids. And that number is even higher in Maryland. Doctors diagnosed one in 80 children here.

Marlo Lemon’s 7-year-old son Matthew Lemon has autism. He was diagnosed at 14 months old and he’s just starting to communicate with the family. Lemon says she got help early and is now seeing progress.

“His twin actually said to me, ‘Mommy, will Matthew ever be able to talk?'” Marlo Lemon said. “I’m like, ‘I don’t know, baby. We’re praying that he will be able to talk. But right now, we’re trying everything we can to help Matthew be the best Matthew he can be.'”

Many children are diagnosed by age three and most of them are boys. But Landa says there’s a simple test parents can do.

“Look at the other kids at a birthday party,” she said. “Is your child showing an interest in the other kids? Does your child know when to blow the candles out?”

CDC researchers surveyed 14 states in this case, including Maryland. Alabama had the least number of autism cases and Utah had the most.

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CDC doctors say they found more autism cases among Hispanic and African-American children in this study.