The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a report stating that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affected at least 1 in 54 children aged 8 years in 2016.

The figures suggest that this is the highest prevalence since 2000, with a 10 percent increase from the latest numbers.

The study also found that boys were 4 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls were. Researchers found that 1 in 34 boys and 1 in 145 girls aged 8 years were diagnosed with ASD.

ASD is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disorder also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior. The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity.

The researchers explained that the rates of ASD have been increasing dramatically over the past three decades. However, they do not know why there is such a rise due to better detection.

Currently, the etiological factors of ASD are idiopathic. However, studies have found that the environment, as well as genetics, may play a great role.

The CDC looked at data of 11 regional monitoring sites across the United States, which are part of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

Chief investigator and psychiatric epidemiologist Li-Ching Lee said, “We need to know how many children have ASD in order to prepare our communities and services systems.”

“An ongoing and accurate estimate will help to develop realistic plans to support these children now, and later into their adolescence and adulthood,” she added.

The researchers said they did not find any significant difference in the autism prevalence between white and black children, suggesting progress toward “earlier and more equitable identification of ASD.”

Lee, who is a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public, said, “Although the gap related to the prevalence of racial and ethnic differences is closing, disparities in early intervention persist for racial and ethnic minorities.”

“Black and Hispanic children with ASD were evaluated at older ages and were more likely to have intellectual disability than white children,” she added. The CDC recommends tracking children’s development and acting quickly by getting them screened if there is any cause of concern.