About one in 88 children in the United States has autism or a related disorder, the highest estimate to date and one that is sure to revive a national argument over how the condition is diagnosed and treated.
The estimate released on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention represents an overall increase of 25 percent since the last analysis in 2006 and a near-doubling of the reported rate in 2002.
Among boys, the rate of autism spectrum disorders is one in 54, almost five times that of girls, in whom the rate is one in 252.
"One thing the data tells us with certainty - there are many children and families who need help," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. "We must continue to track autism spectrum disorders because this is the information communities need to guide improvements in services to help children."