Today is National Autism Awareness Day

Today is National Autism Awareness Day.

Autism rates have skyrocketed with one in 88 children falling on the autism spectrum. This study comes as a professional group is considering changing the diagnosis criteria, which could bring another overhaul of the statistics related to autism.

A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal, found that one in 88 eight-year-olds in 2008 were diagnosed with autism, a 23 percent increase from 2006.

Experts remain divided on the cause of the increase. Some say it stems from better surveillance and diagnosis. Others point to environmental factors.

Autism Speaks, a national advocacy and research funding agency, said the figures mean the U.S. needs to take immediate action to help families and children on the spectrum and invest in research to help explain why the numbers are rising so rapidly.

To be diagnosed with autism, a child must have deficits in three areas: communication, social skills and the ability to shift focus.