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A Theory About Somali Immigrants and Autism

Categories: | Author: Matt O'Leary | Posted: 5/2/2009 | Views: 5000

There has been a fair amount of media attention on the publicized link between Somali immigrants living in MInneapolis and increased rates of autism. More information on this can be found at the following cite. http://www.twincities.com/news/ci_12041479?source=rss. An excerpt from the article follows: The state found that 0.9 percent to 1.5 percent of Somali children ages 3 and 4 received autism support through the school district's preschool programs, compared with 0.2 percent to 0.7 percent of non-Somali children in these programs.

Please note this is not a huge difference in autism rates. The 2 to 7 times difference in autism rates seems to be generated by comparing the two ranges. I think this is a little misleading. For instance, the 7 times upper estimate seems to be generated by comparing the low estimate for non-Somali children with the high estimate for Somali children.

Nonetheless, there does seem to be some elevated risk of autism in Somali immigrants to Minnesota. I haven’t seen any reasonable explanations offered for this potentially elevated number of autism diagnoses within the Somali community in Minnesota. So, having a little time this afternoon, I will offer my own. And, I am not saying that all of these elements are involved. I think that some of them are, and all of them have the potential to be involved. This offers the opportunity for an interesting thought experiment. In most venues, it is very difficult to untangle the genetic and environmental contributors to autism. This clouds potential analysis. While it is certainly possible that genetics are playing a role here, it would seem more likely that an environmental explanation is more likely dominant, if in fact autism rates among Somali immigrants really are elevated in this area.&

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