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.