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A report released in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2011 says maybe. The study, done at the University of Cambridge, suggest that areas with an increased percentage of jobs in the information technology (IT) field saw a correlating increase in the percentage of children that had been diagnosed with autism. The purpose of the study was to test a prediction by Baren-Cohen (2006, 2008 hyper-systemizing theory) that autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are more likely in areas that attract people who are great systemizers. Engineering, physics, computing, and mathematics are all fields of study that attract those that are naturally hyper-systemizers.
The study looked at three regions in the Netherlands: Eindhoven, Haarlem, and Utrecht. The findings are interesting. Here is how the percentages broke down:
- In Eindhoven, 30% of the jobs are IT related-the prevalence of children diagnosed with autism spectrum conditions was 229 per 10,000 children.
- Only 16% of the jobs in Haarlem are IT, and 84 per 10,000 were diagnosed with ASC.
- Lastly, 17% of employment in Ultrech are IT, and the rate of autism spectrum conditions was 57 per 10,000.
While this data would seem to point to an affirmation of the theory, the creators are quick to point out a few possible reasons these numbers could be skewered so vastly:
- There could be an over-diagnosis of autism in Eindhoven due to broader criteria used for diagnosing autism spectrum conditions.
- Due to possibly greater social structure, well coordinated clinical facilities, or media coverage concerning autism may have created increased awareness in the Eindhover area.
- Finally, the researchers suggest that there is possibly an under-diagnosis in the Haarlem and Utrecht areas.
There is already a followup study planned, and the researchers have stated that they would like to study other IT rich regions such as Silicon Valley, CA. Thanks for reading, have a great day!
Here is an article about autism signs to be on the lookout for.
Do you think there is a link between the type of industry the parents work in and an increased risk for autism? If so, what industries and why?