Child autism more prevalent in tech hub

A study suggests childhood autism in the Netherlands is more common in a area with a high proportion of IT workers. The figures suggest there’s more to it than coincidence, though how correlation translates to causation is still open to question.

The key figures come from research by Simon Baron-Cohen (cousins, before you ask) of the UK’s autism research centre and Rosa Hoekstra of the Open University, reported in New Scientist.

After hearing anecdotal references to high levels of autism among the children of the city of Eindhoven’s, the pair compared child autism rates in Eindhoven, Haarlem and Utrect. One major difference between the three is that Eindhoven (pictured) is considered something of a tech hub in the country, with almost a third of jobs in the city relating to computing.

The research found that Eindhoven had 229 cases of autism-spectrum disorders per 10,000 children, compared with 84 in Haarlem and 57 in Utrecht. As a control they checked two other psychiatric conditions (ADHD and dyspraxia) and found no significant variations among the children of the different cities.

The next step in the research is to try to come up with an explanation. While the natural assumption is that people who thrive in computing jobs are genetically more likely to have children with autism, the researchers will be looking for other possibilities such as disparities in the way the condition is diagnosed or treated in the cities.

New Scientist noted a previous project in California that found reported cases of autism rose steadily between 1987 and 2007, far outpacing the state’s population growth, with the biggest rise coming in the South of the state where “Silicon Valley” lies. Two notable elements of that research was the discovery of a trend by which the proportion of autism sufferers in the state who also displayed mental retardation dropped dramatically, while the demographic breakdown switched from all ages being represented roughly equally, to a distinct pattern of the condition being more common among young children. Of course, that may be the result of greater efforts to diagnose the condition among children.

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13 Responses to Child autism more prevalent in tech hub

  1. The New Scientist article doesn't say which/if any other environmental or sociological variables were compared. Yet "The next step in the research is to try to come up with an explanation." Rather than developing a hypothesis to shoehorn into the available data I think the responsible thing to do would be to collect more data.

  2. The New Scientist article doesn’t say which/if any other environmental or sociological variables were compared. Yet “The next step in the research is to try to come up with an explanation.” Rather than developing a hypothesis to shoehorn into the available data I think the responsible thing to do would be to collect more data.

    • Collecting more data would be the most logical thing to do, but to be quite honest they just wasted their time. No one has been able to pinpoint the determining factors of how children are born with autism-like symptoms. Saying that they are more prevalent in a tech city is useless information because we already have studies shown that children with autistic symptoms are drawn to technology ( As if anyone else isn't drawn to it. )

  3. "Childhood autism"? It's not like we outgrow it. And most of us pretty much hate it when it's called a "disorder".

    • Regardless of whether you hate it or not, it's a neurological disorder. When did you become the majority of autism? As for "childhood autism" I don't see anywhere on here where they implied you outgrow autism. They are simply saying that autism shows up in childhood stages.

      • You're right – he doesn't represent the majority of Aspies, but that doesn't mean he is still wrong. I've never referred to myself as having a disorder, and I've never met someone else with Autism, who has come to terms with this fact, that also calls it a disorder or treats it as a disadvantage. We simply learn differently. Where you learn through memorization, we learn through association. We draw links between between things we're learning and things we already know, instead of whatever it is that NTs do (because I honestly can't imagine it). We don't have disorders, simply atypical thought patterns.

      • You're right – he doesn't represent the majority of Aspies, but that doesn't mean he is still wrong. I've never referred to myself as having a disorder, and I've never met someone else with Autism, who has come to terms with this fact, that also calls it a disorder or treats it as a disadvantage. We simply learn differently. Where you learn through memorization, we learn through association. We draw links between between things we're learning and things we already know, instead of whatever it is that NTs do (because I honestly can't imagine it). We don't have disorders, simply atypical thought patterns.

        • Somewhat, but it's almost kind of like denying what it is. Me and my best friend have ADD (I have a more severe case of ADD where it was ADHD before.). While my brother has autism, though he is highly functional. Under no circumstance does he find it a disadvantage (Rather sometimes uses it as an excuse). Communicating your thoughts and feelings and your brother not understanding it. Is this part of it not a disorder? Or is it that the majority of people with it has regressed symptoms of the autism-spectrum?

          Learning in a different way is not a big deal in my opinion as I also have to learn a different way than most people. It's the social interactions that is the concern. My brother is just as smart as anyone (if not smarter) than most children at his school.  As if saying the only problem is the way they learn then I guess they don't have a "problem"? If that was the issue then I wouldn't have said anything about this to begin with.

    • This article stricks too close to home for me.  As the father of a son whose on the autism spectrum, and I'm involved in computers (senior programmer analyst), the reality of this is life long and hard to deal with.

      Secondly, responding to what you said, zymish, I agree that "childhood autism" seems a misnomer.  You either have it, or you don't.  I've never heard of someone who was NT (what people with higher functioning autism refer those of us who are as being, it stands for "neologically typical"), becoming autistic.  However, at least in the US, I believe that there is at least a societal, if not legal, preception that autism isn't something one is born with.  It is VERY important that parents of autistic children get their children properly diagnosed before the age of 22, because from the prevailing points of view of those who can declare someone eligible for social security benefits, no one has autism until they are diagnosed with it, and the age at which they are diagnosed will determine if they get benefits or not.  If the person is diagnosed with autism after the age of 22, then they are not eligible for any social security benefits, regardless of the fact that one is born with autism.

  4. Simon Baron Cohen's theory of the Extreme Male brain and it's neurobiological equivalent whose name I forget helps explain this.

  5. Simon Baron Cohen’s theory of the Extreme Male brain and it’s neurobiological equivalent whose name I forget helps explain this.

  6. Possibly being a bit pedantic, but here it is anyway: 

    Silicon Valley is in Central CA, not Southern Cal. Southern California starts more or less around Bakersfield, and the low end of Silicon Valley is San Jose – about 3 hours north by car – at CA driving speeds, so closer to 4 1/2 driving the speed limit (I think, I don't usually drive less than 75 on long highway trips).

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