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Autism More Common In Kids With Cerebral Palsy

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As the prevalence of cerebral palsy remains largely steady, new findings from researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that kids with the developmental disorder are at higher risk of having autism too.

Roughly 1 in 323 American 8-year-olds have cerebral palsy, according to findings reported this week. Of them, nearly 7 percent are also diagnosed with autism. That’s significantly higher than the 1 percent of all American kids estimated to be on the spectrum.

The figures published this week in the journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology come from the latest national effort to track the number of children with cerebral palsy. Such surveillance is conducted every other year much like the more commonly reported tracking of autism prevalence.

For the study, the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network looked at data on 147,112 children who were age 8 in 2008. All of the kids lived near Atlanta, St. Louis, southeastern Wisconsin or in the northern and central parts of Alabama.

Cerebral palsy is more common in boys than girls and occurs more frequently in black children than in white or Hispanic kids, researchers found. Of those with the condition, more than three-quarters had spastic cerebral palsy and epilepsy occurred in about 40 percent of the kids.

Meanwhile, the study found that nearly 60 percent of children with cerebral palsy were able to walk independently and roughly 11 percent could walk using a hand-held mobility device. The remainder had limited or no walking ability.

Overall, the researchers said that the prevalence of cerebral palsy has remained “relatively constant” since 1996.

While it is unclear why kids with cerebral palsy were more likely to also have autism, the researchers said it may indicate that there are common risk factors for the two conditions.

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Comments (4 Responses)

  1. vmgillen says:

    Being alive is a common factor in all the conditions, too. And for a long time, researchers attributed clinical depression to anyone with a disability… I am simply amazed that scientists would publish anything regarding comorbidity with autism – autism, per the DSM (in every iteration) lacks etiology; listing symptoms only. So: breathing is a common factor in spinal cord injury, autism, and CP – being alive is a common risk factor? Reducto ab absurdam.

    The seizure/asd link will yield something to researchers eventually, IMO – consider Landau-Kleffner Syndrome.

  2. Kate says:

    Interesting – my son has both autism and cerebral palsy. However, he also has red hair, blue eyes, a belly button, ears and occasionally gets colds. DUH…. one could say 5-10% of autistic kids have red hair. One could say 30% of autistic kids have blue eyes. One could say 100% of autistic kids have belly buttons. One could say that 100% of autistic kids have ears. One could say nearly 100% of autistic kids get colds….

    I really DON’T see the connection / correlation.

  3. Sparkey says:

    I say this peacefully, and not to start any arguments: The commonality or connection may be that when an infant is being born (or still in the uterus and suffers a hypoxic ischemic event, or potentially has other injury/trauma to the brain/ body during the birthing process, or possibly suffers from oxidative stress after birth) this could cause further neurological damage which could lead to autism. I believe autism has numerous etiologies, none proven, but since it is a neurological disorder, having the brain/body deprived of oxygen could definitely cause a neurological condition such as autism…in addition to causing CP.

  4. Chris K. says:

    I think it is very important for these children, who are diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Autism, to be tested for Angelman’s Syndrome. Most kids with AS are misdiagnosed having Cerebral Palsy or Autism. Testing is done by a genectics doctor.

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