A new paper suggests the greater than three-fold increase in autism diagnoses among students in special education programs in the United States is a result of a new classification system.

Scientists at Penn State University believe the large growth in autism diagnoses between 2000 and 2010 is largely due to a reclassification of individuals who previously would have been diagnosed with other intellectual disability disorders.

In a paper that appears online in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, researchers discuss their analysis of 11 years of special-education enrollment data on an average of 6.2 million children per year.

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