(RxWiki News) The Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health are teaming up with Autism Speaks, the largest autism advocacy group in the world to try to figure out why Somali children living in Minneapolis, MN are disproportionately suffering from autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
In early 2009, the Minnesota Department of Health released a report that showed that more children of Somali descent were participating in autism spectrum disorders special education programs than any other racial or ethnic group.
Later in 2010, Idil Abdull, founder of the Somali American Autism Foundation and parent of an autistic child, spoke at the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee and requested that an investigation in to the higher Somali prevalence of ASD be conducted.
Autism Speaks' Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D, believes that the combined resources of Autism Speaks along with the surveillance methods developed by the CDC will allow for a timely answer to the question of whether there is a truly a higher prevalence of ASD in the Somali population. If that is indeed the case, it will help direct future research into what factors may have caused the increase, such as environmental factors like immigration and nutrition, or genetic factors specific to children of Somali descent.
Autism is a neurological developmental disorder resulting from altered neural synapse connections that usually develops in the first three years of life. Children who suffer from Autism can have difficulty with communication and social interaction, as well as repetitive and restrictive behavior. While the causes of autism are suspected to be mostly genetic in nature, the exact cause or causes remain largely unknown.
One in 110 children in the United States will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, causing the CDC to declare it a national public health concern.