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California Autism Cases Spike

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California´s mysterious explosion of autism cases worsened in 2004. That´s disappointing researchers who hoped the number of new diagnoses would level off.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports this morning the number of people treated for autism by the state Department of Developmental Services increased 13 percent last year from 2003. An average of nine new autism cases a day come to the state´s attention. And the vast majority are in children 13 and younger.

Scientists have various theories, but there is little agreement about what is driving the growth of autism cases in California. The number of autistic people getting services at the state treatment centers has increased from five-thousand in 1993 to more than 26-thousand now.

Autism is a disorder characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming social relationships. Autistic children can have trouble picking up emotional cues or interpreting facial expressions. Some develop obsessive interests or make repetitive movements such as rocking back and forth or flapping their arms.