By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Autism cases are up 78 percent from a decade ago, according to a sweeping new report from federal health officials.

The new report from the Centers for Disease Control says autism cases are on the rise, largely because of wider screenings and better diagnosis.

Samantha Remi is a 7-year-old who was diagnosed with autism at 22 months. Now, she is learning to read.

“Sam didn’t have words, but the few sounds that she did have she started getting really quiet. She couldn’t follow directions. She couldn’t make eye contact. She was extremely behavioral,” said Florence Remi, Samantha’s mom.

New figures from the CDC now estimate 1 in 88 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder, a 25-percent increase from 2006. Experts say a number of factors may contribute to the increase.

“Better recognition, greater awareness, inclusion of milder cases, and of course, there’s always the possibility that there’s a true rise in incidence. And if there is, that’s something that has to be better investigated,” said Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist.

Autism disorders are now almost five times more common in boys than girls, and research on siblings being done at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shows autism runs in families.

Samantha and her brother are both on the autism spectrum. Their mom says early intervention is critical.

“I have my daughter speaking to me, she understands, she plays. She still throws tantrums, and she’s a little bit different than the rest,” said Florence.

The study also finds more children are being diagnosed with autism by age 3, but 40 percent of kids still aren’t diagnosed until after they’re 4.

CDC’s Autism Prevalence Study Information

Philadelphia Autism Research Information

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