Number of Sacramento County autistic students doubles over six years

04/16/2014 9:44 AM

11/18/2014 10:53 AM

About 3,100 Sacramento County public school students are autistic, a number that has risen seven-fold since 2000, according to new figures from the California Department of Education.

The figure represent a jump of about 300, or 10 percent, from 2013 to 2014. More than one of every 80 students in Sacramento County public schools is classified as autistic.

The number of autistic children also rose in El Dorado, Placer and Yolo County.

Statewide, the number of autistic students rose by 6,100, or 8 percent, to almost 79,000. The number of autistic students statewide has risen by between 5,000 and 7,000 most years for more than a decade. In 2001, there were about 14,000 autistic students in the state.

Theories for the rise, which is a nationwide phenomenon, include improved autism screening, broader definitions of the condition and a genuine increase in autism cases.

A recent University of California study concluded that changes in diagnoses patterns alone cannot explain the rise in the disease. Instead, the study postulated that environmental factors were partially to blame and called for more study of the effects of viruses, pesticides, chemicals and other substances on the development of autism.

Fears that modern vaccines cause autism have led to an increase in parents not vaccinating their children. The American Academy of Pediatrics says no evidence exists linking autism to vaccines.

This chart shows the number of students with autism in Sacramento County since 2000.

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