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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Autism in Modesto

The Modesto [CA] Bee reports:

The number of children with autism has skyrocketed. Modesto City Schools serves nearly seven times as many children today as the district did eight years ago.

Stanislaus County as a whole has had slightly less than a fivefold increase.

No one knows what causes autism. Also unknown is if its phenomenal growth is because of better and broader diagnosis of autism, or a growing risk.

"It's both, quite likely," said autism expert Irva Hertz-Picciotto. She is deputy director of the Children's Center for Environmental Health at the University of California at Davis.

Symptoms typically are evident by the time children are 3. Autism affects boys three to four times more often than girls.

Hertz-Picciotto was the lead author of a study published in 2010 that found a cluster of autism cases born in north and east Modesto. The study noted more cases were found near autism treatment centers. The Central Valley Autism Project is at Orangeburg Avenue and Oakdale Road in east Modesto.

The study also concluded that well-educated parents, older parents and those who were not Latino were most likely to have children with autism. All of those, it said, most likely point to more access to quality health care and a better chance of diagnosis.

"Parents fight for an autism diagnosis, because with an autism diagnosis there is hope," said Ginger Johnson, head of Modesto City Schools' special education programs.