(The Hill) – New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show nearly 1 in 40 U.S. children are affected by autism.

Data from 2018 published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Surveillance Summaries on Thursday showed that 2.3 percent of 8-year-old children were affected by autism.

Previous data published in March said only 1.9 percent of eight-year-old children in the U.S. had been diagnosed with autism.

The CDC emphasized the increase in autism diagnosis is believed to come from improvements in identifying children with autism. 

“The substantial progress in early identification is good news because the earlier that children are identified with autism, the sooner they can be connected to services and support,” Karen Remley,  director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said.

“Accessing these services at younger ages can help children do better in school and have a better quality of life,” Remley added.

Data from 2014 showed children with autism were 50 percent more likely to get a diagnosis within 48 months of age than those who were born in 2010.

The CDC data comes from communities in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.

The rates of autism in the communities vary with 1.7 percent of children in Missouri diagnosed with autism compared to 3.9 percent in California. 

The CDC says the differences between communities could be due to a lack of resources to get an early diagnosis.