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Autism Regresses more Commonly in Black and Hispanic Children

Update Date: May 06, 2014 03:21 PM EDT

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a set of developmental disorders characterized by varying levels of social and communication problems. In a new study, researchers examined autistic children's likelihood of developmental regression, which occurs when children start to lose certain skills, such as talking, making eye contact and walking on schedule. The researchers found that black and Hispanic children appear to have a greater risk of regression than white children.

"Lost skills are very difficult to recover," said lead author Adiaha I. A. Spinks-Franklin, MD, MPH, FAAP, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and associate director of the Developmental-Behavioral Pediatric Fellowship at Texas Children's Hospital. "Evidence suggests that African-American and Hispanic children are often diagnosed with autism at later ages than white children and have less access to services. Our research shows there is one more important factor that contributes to the developmental outcomes of African-American and Hispanic children with autism."

For this study, the researchers examined data on 1,353 autistic children who were a part of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network database from March 2008 to December 2011. The data on the preschool children's demographics and medical information were collected at one of 17 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The researchers found that 27 percent of the children went through developmental regression, which was reported by their parents. Based on these reports, the researchers calculated that black children were two times more likely to regress than white children. Hispanic children were 1.5 times more likely to regress than white children. The researchers found that these links exist even after accounting for the education levels of the children's primary caretaker and the children's insurance status

"We want parents to know that if they have any concerns about behavior or development patterns in their children - whether the concern is a loss of skills or some other type of concern - their child should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible," said study co-author Jennifer B. Swanson, MD, FAAP, first-year developmental-behavioral pediatric fellow at Baylor College of Medicine, reported in the press release.

The study, "Racial Differences in Developmental Regression in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders," was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) yearly meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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