The number of children with autism continues to rise in New Jersey, which already has the highest rate in the nation, according to a CDC report published Thursday.

Although the report found no significant change in the autism rate nationally, the percentage of school-age children diagnosed with autism in New Jersey increased from 2.1 percent in 2010 to 2.5 percent in 2012, or 1 in 41 children. Nationally, 1.5 percent of children have autism, or 1 in 68.

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a developmental disability that can affect how people communicate, behave, learn and interact with others or their environments. Signs of autism begin to become evident in early childhood.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says it’s still not clear why New Jersey’s rate is so high, “but it could be related to how children are identified and connected to services in their local communities.”

“What we know for sure is that there are many children living with autism who need services and support, now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood,” Dr. Stuart K. Shapira, chief medical officer for CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement.

Half the children in New Jersey are not receiving comprehensive developmental evaluations as early as they could be, meaning that they may be missing out on important support and services, the report says.

In New Jersey, boys are 4.2 times more likely to have autism than girls. White and black children were more likely to be diagnosed than Hispanic children. Only 28 percent of those diagnosed in New Jersey had an intellectual disability.

The report is based on CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, which tracks 8-year-olds in 11 states.

In New Jersey, the report tracks 32,581 children in four counties: Essex, Hudson, Union and Ocean.

Resources for parents

Parents of young children and childcare providers can learn more about autism at the CDC's "Learn the Signs — Act Early" website.

Organizations offering resources and support:

Autism Family Services of New Jersey — 877-237-4477

Autism New Jersey — 800-4-AUTISM

Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Program

Early Intervention System

Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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