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U study shows autism, income not connected

U study shows autism, income not connected

By Geoffrey Fattah | Posted - Sep. 16, 2011 at 3:41 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A new study of child autism at the University of Utah has found that while income does not seem to be a factor in having an autistic or intellectually-disabled child, parental age, education level and ethnicity might.

The study, published this week in the journal Autism Research, looked at children with autism or who are intellectually disabled, in a three-county area surrounding Salt Lake City through the Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disabilities. After evaluating a variety of demographic factors, they found that autistic children were more likely to be male, something supported by earlier studies, and to have mothers of white, non- Hispanic, ethnicity. Autistic children were also more likely to have mothers 34 years of age or older.

The study differed from other studies that claimed income level plays a factor in children with autism. The new study found that it did not play a factor.

While autism is a neuro-developmental disorder, children with intellectual disability do not share the symptoms of autism, but usually score 70 or below on a standard IQ test.

The study differed from other studies that claimed income level plays a factor in children with autism. The new study found that it did not play a factor.

“In the past, there’s been a body of literature that has said that children with autism come from parents of high income families, and children with intellectual disability come from families with low income. So I think this study is important because it shows that regardless of what your income is, it places you at risk for having either autism and/or intellectual disabilities,” said study author Judith Pinborough- Zimmerman, a research assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Utah.

Zimmerman and her colleagues examined income changes over an eight-year period in families with a child either with autism, intellectual disability, or both, and then compared the data to the general population. They researchers found no clear association between income level and risk of the conditions in children.

"This study, despite the small sample size, is an example of the importance of exploring the many variables, that in combination, may result in an increase risk," said Dr. Harper Randall, medical director for the Division of Family Health and Preparedness.

Zimmerman said one other surprising finding showed that mothers who had more than 13 years of education were less likely to have children who were intellectually disabled.


Written by Geoffrey Fattah with contributions from Mary Richards.

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