Is Autism on the Rise in Mexican American Children? Local Study Hopes to Find Answers

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POSTED: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 8:55am

UPDATED: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 10:39am

Are medical professionals able to better diagnose children with autism, or are there truly more children being born or developing the disorder?

Either way, the numbers of autism cases in the valley seem to be increasing.

News Center 23 reporter, Na'Tassia Finley has more on autism prevalence in the lower RGV and a new study targeting Mexican American children.
Jessica Lenden Holt is the Director of Speech Pathology at the Bright Start Rehabilitation Center, a center that works with children that have been diagnosed with some form of autism.

"I can honestly say, I've never seen as many kids with autism as when I moved down here," says Jessica Lenden Holt, the director speech pathology at Bright Start Children's Rehabilitation Center.

She says the numbers over the years have grown, their case load at the center has quadrupled in the last four years.

Those numbers are reflective of increasing statisicts across the nation; but are the prevalence of autism cases in the valley even greater than numbers nationwide?

"You do have to wonder if it's increasing at 10-17 percent annually, there has to be something else going on, it can't just be that we're more aware," says the bilingual speech language pathologist

That's what researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center out of San Antonio are trying to figure out, specifically with Mexican American children down here in the valley.

Statistics show that Mexican American children are not diagnosed with autism as early as children of other ethnicities.

So does that have to do with lack of education or maybe awareness? Either way, the mystery disorder leaves many unanswered questions as to why certain children have so much trouble with social and communication skills.

"So much more research needs to be done in the area of autism. There are so many autism studies that come out all the time, but still, there's not enough information. We need to know about what environmental factors are affecting these children, we need to know about the genetic links, about the ways we can intervene, early intervention is key," says Linden Holt.

As of now the study that will be based out of Harlingen is looking for Mexican American children that fall between the ages of two to five years old that have been diagnosed with some sort of autism.

"When you're looking at kids aged two to five, that's the prime time to start therapy and really get involved with families because that's when we see the most growth in children with autism, " says Lenden Holt.

 Below you can find more detailed information on the autism study.  

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Great story! Thanks for the info!

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