Objectives To investigate the prevalence of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in children aged 0-19 across 7 major ethnic groups.
Background In March 2009, researchers in the department of health in Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA reported that the number of Somali children, aged 3 to 4 years, who participated in the ASD special educational programs was significantly higher than for children from other ethnic backgrounds. A study from Sweden in 2008 estimated the prevalence of autism among Somali children in Stockholm County to be 3-4 times higher than children of other ethnic origin. In our Borough; Somali families observed higher occurrence of ASD in their children and also relatives living in other countries.
Methods Children aged 0-19 years with a diagnosis of ASD were recruited from the databases of the local Special Educational Needs Department and the local Autism Service. Duplications were removed. Estimates of the total child population (aged 0-19 years) in the Borough were obtained from the local public health demographic data (November 2008), the Mayhew Harper Associates population report May 2010 and the local projected population (2011). The estimated number was 61773 children. These children were separated into 7 major ethnic groups (table 1 and figure 1). The ASD group (N=355) were separated into the same 7 major ethnic groups and analyses between the two groups was made (table 2 and figure 2).
Results In our borough, the Black African, Somali and Black Caribbean children constitute the smallest proportion of the ethnic groups at 3% each. The Bangladeshi and white population made up the largest proportion at 55% and 18% respectively. The prevalence of autism in Somali and black African children was found to be 1.2% (12.1 per 1000). The prevalence of Autism in the black Caribbean population was 1.1% (11 per 1000). The prevalence in the remaining ethnic groups was 0.55% (5.5 per 1000) See figure 3.
Conclusion The analysis shows a higher prevalence of autism in Somali, Black African and Black Caribbean children which is at least twice the prevalence in all other ethnic groups in our borough. This supports what has previously been reported by other authorities.