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Developmental Regression More Likely in Black and Hispanic Autistic Children

smackdown_toddler_seperation_anxiety-e1320685716530Researchers examining autistic children’s likelihood of developmental regression have found that Black and Hispanic children appear to have a greater risk of regression than white children.

Developmental regression occurs when children start to lose certain skills, such as talking, making eye contact, and walking on schedule.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Scientists aren’t certain about what causes ASD or developmental regression that afflicts some children.

The data was collected from 17 locations throughout the United States and Canada. Scientists examined demographic and medical data from 1,353 autistic preschool children who were a part of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN) database, from March 2008 to December 2011.

The researchers found that 27 percent of the children went through developmental regression, which was reported by their parents.

The regression occurs at the time they are supposed to be reaching critical milestones, according to lead researcher Dr. Adiaha Spines-Franklin of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. “They learn to babble or talk, then stop. They learn to play patty-cake, then stop.”

Black children were two times more likely to regress than white children. Hispanic children were 1.5 times more likely to regress than white children.

Black and Hispanic parents were more likely to report lost skills, even when the researchers took into account for parents’ education levels, whether they had insurance, and whether their child had already been diagnosed with autism before coming to the ATN.

The study was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’  yearly meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. This was the first study to show racial disparities in rates of developmental regression even though reasons for the disparities are unclear.

Children whose language skills regress early in life (before age 3) appear to have a higher than normal risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. Thus, researchers encourage parents to know the signs of autism, and speak to their healthcare practitioner right away if they notice any changes in a child’s development.

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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