WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - On the night the Royal Park Bridge was illuminated with blue light to bring awareness to autism, families impacted by the disorder discussed a new report from the Centers for Disease Control that indicated the autism community is growing.
"It's startling, and it's scary, and it's an awakening," said Tracy Maybee. Her daughter has autism spectrum disorder.
The CDC on Thursday issued new numbers that show 1 in 68 children is impacted by autism. The previous figured showed that 1 in 88 children were impacted. "It's kind of unbelievable to me that, that many children have been diagnosed with autism. So there's something going on and we need to figure out what's going on. Why is this happening to our children?" said Maybee.
The CDC does not shed much light on why there is an increase.
Scientists said the disorder is overwhelmingly more common in boys than girls. "Everybody would like to know exactly what it is. But in reality, that doesn't really matter. We're here on a daily basis," said principal Debbie Johnson at the Renaissance Learning Center.
Johnson said part of the rise in autism cases is due to a growing awareness.
More importantly for Johnson is how her teachers will handle the increase. "The school is growing tremendously and the future is only getting bigger," said Pam Dieste, a teacher at the Renaissance Learning Center.
Parents like Maybee only hope that as the autism community grows, care and school improves along with the bigger population. "I mean I can't predict what her future is going to be like and it scares me, sure. It keeps me awake at night with worry and wonder. But I just hope with this knowledge and everybody hearing about autism, that these services are going to be here," said Maybee.
The bridge in West Palm Beach is set to stay illuminated with blue light through the month of April.