A long-awaited study has confirmed the fears of Somali residents in Minneapolis that their children suffer from higher rates of a disabling form of autism compared with other children there.
The study — by the University of Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the research and advocacy group Autism Speaks — found high rates of autism in two populations: About one Somali child in 32 and one white child in 36 in Minneapolis were on the autism spectrum.
The national average is one child in 88, according to Coleen A. Boyle, who directs the C.D.C.’s Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
But the Somali children were less likely than the whites to be “high-functioning” and more likely to have I.Q.s below 70. (The average I.Q. score is 100.)The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:
While the study established a high rate of autism in Somali children, Hewitt said, it was not designed to address some of the pressing “why” questions — such as why autism rates vary so sharply among racial and ethnic groups. Nor did it address some of the persistent fears inMinneapolis’ growing Somali immigrant community about the origins of autism in their children.
Some in the community believed that autism was only a problem among children born in the United States, and not among Somali children who moved here with their parents. Hewitt said that wasn’t addressed by this study, but that researchers have birth record data to address that question next. The report also didn’t address fears among some in the community that pediatric vaccines were somehow to blame.
The study did find that children of all races and ethnicities in Minnesota aren’t assessed for an autism diagnosis, on average, until they are 5. That is late considering that the disorder can reliably be detected by age 2.