Autism Spectrum Disorders are disorders affecting the development of social and communication skills. It is estimated that in the United States, a form of autism occurs in 1 out of every 100 children. Children with autism have difficulty with language development and communication, interaction with others, and behavior. Autism Spectrum Disorders cover a wide array of severities, but all children with autism display characteristics of each symptom. Recent studies have noted a difference in diagnosis rates between socioeconomic classes with higher rates of diagnoses occurring in higher social economic classes. Are autism rates really higher in wealthier families or is something else going on?
Wealthier families tend to have better access to health care, and autism can be a difficult disorder to diagnose. Families with available money and insurance may be more likely to get their child’s Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosed when compared to those families without access to health care and less financial resources. Studies have been performed that demonstrate many more children go undiagnosed at lower socioeconomic levels.
In a study completed by the University of Wisconsin, researchers took eight year old children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and children not diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder from both high and low economic status and compared the rates of prevalence in each group. The study demonstrated that higher rates of Autism Spectrum Disorder affected children at higher economic levels even after factoring in better health care access. The study demonstrated a statistically significant rate between the two groups. In effect, even after the health care gap was accounted for, the wealthier children were more likely to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The higher rates of prevalence among wealthier families is not easily explained. Some studies have linked Autism Spectrum Disorders to a lack of Vitamin D, and some professionals have considered if wealthy children are more likely to have Vitamin D deficiencies due to higher use of sunscreen. There is not any conclusive data. Autism “cluster” diagnoses have also been found in highly educated parents. Perhaps higher intelligence rates in parents is a contributing factor in the development of autism in children.
Autism Spectrum Disorders are a complicated group of disorders with much more research needed to understand its features, risks, and causes. Awareness of autism has greatly increased in recent years leading to better educational opportunities and treatments for affected children. Autism is not easily linked to any one cause and likely has many contributing factors in the development of an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
PloS One, University of Wisconsin Socioeconomic Inequality in the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from a U.S. Cross-Sectional Study http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0011551
Vitamin D http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health/autism/vit-D-explains-autism.shtml