European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 173, Issue 3, pp 337–343 | Cite as

Autism in a recently arrived immigrant population

  • Suzanne BoltonEmail author
  • Denise McDonald
  • Emma Curtis
  • Stephanie Kelly
  • Louise Gallagher
Original Article


This study aims to establish whether children of an immigrant maternal population presented with a higher rate of autism than the indigenous population and to explore their presentation with regard to severity of symptoms, demographics and ethnicity. It is a retrospective case note analysis of 366 children who presented to the paediatric developmental service in the Adelaide and Meath incorporating the National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght, Ireland between 2007 and 2009. During the study period, 366 children presented. Fifty-eight children (16 %) had mothers who were born in Africa and 53 (14 %) were born to mothers originating from a wider variety of countries. Two hundred and forty-eight children (68 %) had mothers born in Ireland. Maternal origin was not identified for seven children (2 %). An autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) was diagnosed in 131 children and speech and language delay in 132. Of the children with an ASD diagnosis, a higher proportion of the African cohort 13/18 (72.2 %) presented with moderate/severe cognitive disability compared to the Irish group 9/55(16.3 %), and the children in the African cohort showed a higher heritability with 36.9 % having a positive family history of autism reported compared to 26.3 % of the Irish cohort with an ASD diagnosis. Conclusion: This study highlights an observation of increased rates of ASD among a migrant population derived particularly from children born to mothers originating in Sub-Saharan Africa. This cohort is more severely affected. Further validation in an epidemiological sample is warranted, which if replicated, may help to identify possible aetiological risk factors.


Autism Migrant health Child psychiatry Race and health Community child health Neurodevelopmental paediatrics 



We are grateful to the support given by the National Children's Hospital Foundation to this work. We would like to acknowledge the support given by Barbara Fox in the data collection stage of the project.

Conflict of interest

This work was supported by a grant from the National Children’s Hospital Foundation. There is no conflict of interest due to this.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne Bolton
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Denise McDonald
    • 4
  • Emma Curtis
    • 4
  • Stephanie Kelly
    • 1
  • Louise Gallagher
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryTrinity Centre for Health Sciences, St. James’s HospitalDublin 8Ireland
  2. 2.Department of Community PaediatricsAdelaide and Meath incorporating the National Children’s Hospital TallaghtDublinIreland
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  4. 4.Adelaide and Meath incorporating the National Children’s Hospital TallaghtDublinIreland
  5. 5.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryTrinity College DublinDublinIreland

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