Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Autism: Somalis in Minnesota and Sunshine

I was in Thailand two years ago and I visited a friend who has a grandson in Minnesota. She said, "I could not understand him, from Thailand to Minnesota, the temperature in the winter is 100° different.

Even now it is between 11° F and 32°F.

But I told her that Minnesota is famous for the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), one of the most frequently used tests in psychiatry, her grandson was studying medicine there and wanted to be a psychiatrist!

Now it may become famous for something else.

In the New York Times today:
Autism Rates Are Higher for U.S.-Born Somali Children in Minneapolis
April 1,2009
"Confirming the fears of Somali immigrants in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Health Department agreed Tuesday that young Somali children there appeared to have higher-than-usual rates of

"Though health officials emphasized that their report was based on very limited data, they concluded that young Somali children appeared to be two to seven times as likely as other children to be in classes for autistic pupils.

"Dr. Sanne Magnan, the state health commissioner, said the finding was ‘consistent with the observations by parents,’ who have been saying for more than a year that alarming numbers of Somali children born in this country have severe autism. Somalis began immigrating into the area in the 1990s, fleeing civil war in their homeland. The report made no effort to explain why the children had autism. Its authors did not examine children or their medical records. They accepted the diagnoses — some by doctors, some by school evaluators — that admitted children to special-education classes, and they calculated rates for different ethnic groups. They counted only 3- to 4-year-olds, only children in Minneapolis public schools, and only children born in Minnesota. They drew no comparisons with Somalis in other cities.

"There have been anecdotal reports of higher autism rates among Somalis in some American cities, and no formal studies. A small study in Sweden reported high rates among Somali schoolchildren in Stockholm.

"Idil Abdull, the mother of an autistic child who has long tried to draw attention to the Minneapolis situation, said she was “happy that they said, ‘Yes, there is a problem.’ ”

“But at least they didn’t say, ‘No, it’s all in your minds.’ If they had done that, I’d picket in front of their building.”

"Dr. Magnan noted that this study found “strikingly low” numbers of Asian and American Indian children in the same special-education classes. But she cautioned that the reason might not be lower autism rates; instead, parents might not be enrolling their children in those classes, or might be sending them to private schools.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) monitors autism diagnoses among 8-year-old children in 14 sites around the country, and in 2007 it estimated that about 1 child in 150 had an autism-spectrum disorder.

"Rates are roughly the same for whites and blacks, Catherine Rice, another C.D.C. official, said recently. They are lower among Hispanics, possibly because of poor medical care or cultural reticence, she said. Too few Asians were monitored to make estimates."

Could sunshine or the relative lack of it be the culprit here? Sunshine and Vitamin D3 is the new black.

World Autism Awareness Day

Previous post here.

Minnesota Department of Health: Autism and the Somali Community - Report of Study Fact Sheet (PDF )

Popular Posts:

No comments: