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Autism ‘clusters’ linked to parents’ education


National Public radio reports that clusters of children diagnosed with autism tend to occur in places where parents are older, more educated, and white, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Davis. The study found no link to local pollution or chemical exposures, which some consumer groups have cited as possible causes of autism clusters. The results suggest that areas with apparently high rates of autism spectrum disorders are probably just places where parents are more likely to obtain a diagnosis for their child, the researchers say. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that higher education causes autism,” says Irva Hertz-Picciotto, one of the study’s authors and a researcher at the UC Davis MIND Institute. But “it gets you the diagnosis more frequently.” The UC Davis study looked at the geographic distribution of about 10,000 children who were born in California from 1996 through 2000 and later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. A cluster was defined as a community in which the proportion of children diagnosed with autism was a least 70 percent higher than in surrounding areas. The study found that differences in parents’ age, education, and ethnicity explained these clusters most of the time…

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