Autism Clusters Found: areas with high incidence of autistic children

1 Jan

Researchers at the U.C. Davis MIND Institute has discovered regions in the state of California that have notably higher autism incidence. But the story is more complicated, and more sad, than one might think at first. Instead of indications of an “autism epidemic”, these clusters point to the fact that minority and poor children are much less likely to receive autism diagnoses.

I don’t have the paper yet (I’m still trying to find the abstract), but articles in the Woodland Daily Democrat and the San Diego Union-Tribune are reporting the story.

The clusters do not appear to point to environmental causes. Instead…well, read for yourself:

Researchers said that in this investigation the clusters probably are not correlated with specific environmental pollutants or other “exposures.” Rather, they correlate to areas where residents are more educated.

Children with autism diagnoses in these clusters are more likely to be White and have parents with high education levels. Again, a quote:

“In the U.S., the children of older, white and highly educated parents are more likely to receive a diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder. For this reason, the clusters we found are probably not a result of a common environmental exposure. Instead, the differences in education, age and ethnicity of parents comparing births in the cluster versus those outside the cluster were striking enough to explain the clusters of autism cases,” said senior author Irva Hertz-Picciotto.

Kids in the “clusters” are about twice a likely to be diagnosed autistic and kids in nearby areas.

Twice as high.

To the many of us armchair epidemiologists who who have looked closely at the California Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) data, this comes as no surprise.

For me, the most memorable discussion of the autism clusters came from Autism Diva, in her post from July 1997, Malibu and Compton: Compare and Contrast.

Here is a graph from that post:

The South Central Regional Center, in a predominantly non-White, poor area of the Los Angeles basin, had an administrative prevalence of 33 per 10,000. Compare that to Westside Regional Center with a prevelance of 84. Westside is a much more affluent are with a higher proportion of White families.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“There is mounting evidence that at least some of this clustering results from the greater access and utilization of services by those with more years of schooling,” the UC Davis researchers wrote.

Yes, there is a certain “I told you so” moment here. This blog, Autism Diva, Autism Natural Variation, Autism Street and others have been pointing out the apparent autism clusters in the raw CDDS data for years. Long before I started blogging. But the real story isn’t the effect such clusters have on the idea of the “autism epidemic”. Rather, this is a clear indication that we are underserving the disabled in our minority and poor communities. This is just plain wrong.

It is long past time for real autism advocacy organizations to work on increasing awareness and access to services in underserved areas. The autism “clusters” are probably not real. From where I sit, what is real are the “anti–clusters” of undiagnosed autistics, minorities, the poor, and, yes, adults.

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134 Responses to “Autism Clusters Found: areas with high incidence of autistic children”

  1. Prometheus October 19, 2011 at 21:03 #

    Mr. Clarke,

    Nevermind – I was able to find your article after all. At least, I was able to find an “author’s unrevised reprint” of it. I’m trying to track down the “as published” version so that I don’t miss any revisions that would change the meaning of the article.

    Prometheus

  2. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 21:03 #

    Hoho, this whole question of proving that negative that I had asserted is also confounded by the notion (which I rejected above) that any individual can be identified as “having autism” anyway. It’s not a question of whether someone is autistic but of how autistic they are. It follows that the concept that someone’s autism can be entirely genetic is a false concept because someone can’t “have” autism anyway. Meanwhile pD’s notion of there being no individual that can’t benefit from training may be undermined by one who has the language capability genes entirely missing. But then again, that would mean their lack of language is not due to suppression by antiinnatia and therefore not due to autism (as in my concept of autism, autism is retrospectively defined as the syndrome of suppression of innatons by excessive antiinnatia).(Of course, the case for the antiinnatia theory can’t start off with assuming that definition, but only concludes with it.)

  3. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 21:23 #

    Prometheus, you needed to search for antiinnatia without the hyphen. You could find the “as published” version on the Elsevier website but you’d have to pay them $31 (if not already institutionally-subscribed) and it lacks my added charts (which are a great enhancement) and also the formatting of Pers Ind Diff was a bit naff back then. Also there was a minor miscorrection in proof, corrected only in a later month’s issue. Otherwise I have just added that clarifying extra sentence at the end of the abstract in [....]s. You should bear in mind it was all written more than 20 years ago and a HUGE amount has changed since then, in autism and in the wider world.

  4. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 21:25 #

    And if you’re in London there are (were?!) print copies in the inst of education and the inst of psychiatry….

  5. Chris October 19, 2011 at 23:29 #

    Sullivan:

    You and your ilk have caused a great deal of harm in the world.

    Just like the spurious wild goose chases to “what causes autism” have diverted attention and real money from support services. This includes special education funds, and transition and support services for disabled adults.

    By the way, this relates to school services and a memoirs of parents of disabled kids: I recently read a book that came from this blog, Schuyler’s Monster.

    The early diagnostic bits were so familiar to us, including some of the less than helpful “advice” they are given. But what was very interesting was dealing with a school district in getting and using an augmentative-alternative communication (AAC) device. One mainstream teacher took to turning it off, which literally robbed the child of her voice.

    And here is the very pertinent part of the tale, the family moved to a much wealthier part of their state to get better services for their daughter. The school district was even designing a program for AAC users, which was to be self-contained at first with kids transitioning to mainstream classrooms. And of course, teachers would not be allowed to turn off the devices.

  6. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 23:48 #

    Dear Sullivan, how low you so willingly stoop into sheer ad hom insults completely devoid of any attempt to substantiate your slanders with any scientific evidence or argument. Notwithstanding your own sneering/gloating in the past on this site, I can take no pleasure in this unseemly exhibition of your irrationality and (albeit unwitting) hypocrisy here. I anyway wish you well, and would hope that your emotional outbursts here are the signal of a coming paradigm shift from your present misconceptions. With best wishes, Robin

    • Sullivan October 19, 2011 at 23:59 #

      Robin P Clarke,

      pointing out that you are an HIV/AIDS denialist is not an ad hominem attack. It is factual. Pointing out that HIV/AIDS denialists have caused a great deal of harm is not an ad hominem attack, it is factual. Pointing out that I find HIV/AIDS denialists loathsome is not an attack, it is honesty. I find your ilk loathsome. It is not an emotional outburst. Rather it is a calm and accurate statement of the level of disgust I hold for people like yourself whose actions have resulted in suffering and death. It is completely a completely reasonable response given the results of the HIV/AIDS denialism.

      I hope for your sake that your contribution to the HIV/AIDS denialism movement has been as ineffectual as your contribution to autism science.

  7. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 23:54 #

    My “paper that no one really cared about?”?
    Described by Rimland as excellent fine work and “Robin Clarke is one of those rare souls” (and twice positively mentioned in his ARRI) and by the top IQ researcher Eysenck as well worth publishing (indeed published by him) and by two referees as highly impressive. And people have cited it years later. Your definition of no-one is rather telling there. Speak for yourself as a some-one who proudly can’t be bothered to read anything that doesn’t confirm your preconceptions.

  8. stanley seigler October 20, 2011 at 00:05 #

    [chris say] Just like the spurious wild goose chases to “what causes autism” have diverted attention and real money from support services. This includes special education funds, and transition and support services for disabled adults.

    COMMENT
    knew there had to be things we agreed on…this is certainly one…causes/cures research needed but not at the expense of support…at very least there should be some balance…

    [chris say] But what was very interesting was dealing with a school district {SD] in getting and using an augmentative-alternative communication (AAC) device.

    COMMENT
    unbelievable how behind the times many SDs and funding agencies (in CA-USA regional centers)…and colleges teach from out dated text books.

    stanley seigler

  9. Robin P Clarke October 20, 2011 at 00:16 #

    Dear Sullivan, thanks for de-moderating my last two comments but I don’t altogether agree with your reply to them. Again you deploy your high intelligence only to confuse yourself and others. I do not belong to an ilk, I just independently study evidence and reasoning and reach my own conclusions. My lone voice claim that mercury is majorly involved in autism but hasn’t come from vaccines is hardly part of an “ilk” is it? Your repeated use of pejorative words such as denialist and loathsome and ilk do constitute ad hom “reasoning”. Your conspicuous outpouring of hostile attitude combined with your
    refusing to engage in the slightest scientific defence of it to me speaks for itself of intellectual bankruptcy. If you aren’t willing to defend a position why should anyone give a four x about those attitudinal phrases you’ve just placed there. I personally couldn’t care less whether hiv/aids is a scam or not, I just state the science as as I see it and have here indicated the sources of my thinking unlike yourself. Please for your own good give yourself a break to ponder awhile. I don’t doubt your honest and honourable intentions and you bring to the table so much talent that is currently being wasted on your personal wrong turnings here.

  10. Robin P Clarke October 20, 2011 at 00:22 #

    Huh, my comment of 23:54:55 has now disappeared after previously appearing. Can’t see anything much to object to in it:
    “My “paper that no one really cared about?”?
    Described by Rimland as excellent fine work and “Robin Clarke is one of those rare souls” (and twice positively mentioned in his ARRI) and by the top IQ researcher Eysenck as well worth publishing (indeed published by him) and by two referees as highly impressive. And people have cited it years later. Your definition of no-one is rather telling there. Speak for yourself as a some-one who proudly can’t be bothered to read anything that doesn’t confirm your preconceptions.”

  11. Chris October 20, 2011 at 01:33 #

    Mr. Seigler, the book I mentioned does not involve California. You might actually try clicking on the link and checking out the blog. I still cannot understand what you are saying becasue you continue to use odd punctuation and refuse to employ full sentences.

    The main point is that there are better services in a wealthier area, and people who can afford it will move to get those services.

  12. stanley seigler October 20, 2011 at 03:44 #

    re: the book I mentioned…

    “Schuyler’s Monster is more than the memoir of a parent dealing with a child’s disability. It is the story of the relationship between a unique and ethereal little girl floating through the world without words, and her earthbound father”

    my little girl is now 46…and is still my teacher…thanks for the link…

    stanley seigler

  13. Robin P Clarke October 20, 2011 at 10:00 #

    Sullivan, pathetic that you have to resort to censorship of reasonable replies in an attempt to cover your arse and mislead readers here. Do you seriously think I am going to take your protestations of being n intellectually serious honourable person seriously again?

  14. Robin P Clarke October 20, 2011 at 17:45 #

    Cheers re my comments that I do now see on here – I guess we are just going to have to “agree to disagree” for a while, and just conceivably some or other views in the autism controversies will eventually change.

    • Sullivan October 20, 2011 at 17:53 #

      Robin P Clarke,

      I don’t really care what you agree to. It isn’t a disagreement that you are wrong on HIV/AIDS. It is a fact. It isn’t a disagreement that people like you cause harm, it is a fact.

      As the saying goes, you have the right to your own opinion, but not your own facts. When you are factually incorrect, there is no “agree to disagree”. It isn’t a matter of opinion.

  15. daedalus2u October 20, 2011 at 18:30 #

    It has been rigorously shown that two individuals sharing common priors (i.e. data), cannot honestly “agree to disagree”.

    Aumann RJ. Agreeing to disagree. The annals of statistics, vol. 4, No. 6 (Nov., 1976), 1236-1239.

    This is why denialists need to find fault with whatever data does not match the conclusion they want to draw and why denialists can never agree as to what constitutes good data. They need to reach a certain conclusion, so they can only agree to data that is compatible with that conclusion.

    This is the fundamental dishonesty of denialists.

  16. Robin P Clarke October 20, 2011 at 18:43 #

    Sullivan, You persist in repeating these assertions here about hiv/aids, while giving no supporting evidence. My mind is wide open to any explanations of why the arguments detailed in the aids hoax video are wrong, why Duesberg’s rebuttal re the Africa deaths is wrong, why the point that there is no genuine test of hiv positive is wrong, etc, etc. Wide open but no such responses are forthcoming, from others or now from yourself.

    I only change my scientific opinions when presented with new facts or reasonings for doing so. Doesn’t that sound a reasonable approach? As I said, I personally have no interest in the aids (would-be-)debate other than as a purely scientific question, I just see the facts as I see them and say what I see. Why does that make me reprehensible?

    How about the nasty NHS charlatanism exposed here?:

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/why_chronic_mercury_poisoning_is and

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/why_swbhnhst_uses_well_known_use

    Shouldn’t you express equal outrage about that?

    • Sullivan October 20, 2011 at 18:54 #

      Robin P Clarke,

      I am not going to be dragged into the argument you so dearly want. Denialists love to argue. Vaccine denialists, HIV/AIDS denialists.

      I will no longer approve your comments mentioning HIV/AIDS. Complain that I am “censoring” you if you want. I don’t care.

      • Sullivan October 20, 2011 at 18:58 #

        Yes, Robin, your last comment was just deleted. I hope it is your last attempt to pollute this blog with the HIV/AIDS denialism.

  17. Chris October 20, 2011 at 18:57 #

    Could you also include not approving the comments that are so far off topic? That would make it much easier, thank you.

  18. Berthajane Vandegrift July 14, 2012 at 22:17 #

    I doubt an environmental toxin will be found as a cause of autism. It is not autism that is on the rise, but non conformity. Autism is a personality trait. We normal autistic people are merely called nonconformists. Retardation has many causes and some defective children are autisitc. Autism is a lack of intuitive ability. Some children are able to substitute learning for intuuition. My son was diagnosed during the time autism was beleved to be caused by maternal rejection, and therapy for mother was the treatment. The story can be read at
    A Few Autistic Questions about Freud, Marx and Darwin

    http://30145.myauthorsite.com/

  19. thisorthat.com October 23, 2013 at 17:18 #

    I know this website provides quality dependent articles and
    additional stuff, is there any other web site which presents these kinds of stuff in quality?

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  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Autism Clusters Found: areas with high incidence of autistic children « Left Brain/Right Brain -- Topsy.com - January 1, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jack Scanlan, autism_hub. autism_hub said: New post: Autism Clusters Found: areas with high incidence of autistic children http://bit.ly/4RYkdQ [...]

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