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Study refutes connection between autism and risk of injury in young children

A study from the University of Colorado published today refutes that autism is among the main reasons for the risk of moderately serious injuries among children under five, and considers that, on the contrary, attention deficit and hyperactivity are.

After analyzing the cases of 2,000 children across the country, researchers determined that, despite what is commonly believed, children with autism are not more likely than those who do not suffer from this condition to suffer from wounds that require medical attention, that is, visits to emergency rooms or hospitalization.

At the same time, this type of injury is common among children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Apparently, according to the researchers, the fact that 30% of children with autism also suffer from ADHD would have led to the erroneous conclusion about the connection between risk of childhood injuries and autism.

The research was based on data from some 6,000 children compiled over several years for the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Attention problems seem to contribute to the risk of injury.” The existing relationship (between autism and ADHD) may explain why some studies found a higher risk of injury in children with autism, “said Dr. Carolyn DiGuiseppi, supervisor of the new study and professor of epidemiology and pediatrics at the School of Public Health of the University of Colorado in Denver.

Specifically, DiGuiseppi and his collaborators from other universities analyzed reports included in SEED of information provided by adults in charge of children aged between 30 and 68 months who suffered injuries that needed medical attention.

Some of these children have autism, others suffer from developmental disorders and others were grouped as “population in general.”

The analysis of the data on the circumstances in which injured people were reestablished allowed to establish that 32.3% of children with autism had suffered injuries, compared to 30.2% of children in the general population and with 27.8%. % of children with other disorders.

But when taking into account other elements, such as the socio-demographic context, the health, the IQ and the behavioral differences of the children, the researchers concluded that “the probability of injury in the cases of children with autism, although significantly more higher than those of the control group of children with other disorders, are similar to those of children in the general population. ”

In short, it would not be autism, but other factors, such as the level of education of parents, the quality of maternal care, family income, problems of child behavior or certain diseases that would generate the risk of injury.

But, according to the researchers, this conclusion, although solid and based on official data, should be considered as provisional, because it does not explain the reasons why children with other developmental disorders are less likely to hurt themselves than children with autism, nor does it take into account the fact that an indeterminate number of childhood injuries are never reported.

DiGuiseppi believes that one possible explanation for the differences in the risk of injury between autistic children and children with other disorders is that those with autism enjoy greater mobility than children with developmental problems that include physical disabilities.

And the reason why parents of children with autism prefer not to report the injuries of their children is that hospital emergency rooms “are chaotic and noisy,” that is, an area that is not conducive to autistic children.

In addition, the study says, “the waitings (in the hospital) are long and not much personnel have been trained in neurodevelopmental disorders.” That’s why parents would be reluctant to take their children to the hospital.

To achieve better conclusions, said DiGuiseppi, more research is needed focusing exclusively on children with autism and dividing those children into groups with different types of behaviors to compare if some group presents a higher risk of injury than another.

At the same time, the authors of the study ask, “the doctors in charge of caring for children with both autism and attention problems should consider providing specific safety advice” for those children. “

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