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Are Autism Spectrum Conditions More Prevalent in an Information-Technology Region? A School-Based Study of Three Regions in the Netherlands

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Abstract

We tested for differences in the prevalence of autism spectrum conditions (ASC) in school-aged children in three geographical regions in the Netherlands. Schools were asked to provide the number of children enrolled, the number having a clinical diagnosis of ASC and/or two control neurodevelopmental conditions. Prevalence was evaluated by negative binomial regression and adjustments were made for non-response and size of the schools. The prevalence estimates of ASC in Eindhoven was 229 per 10,000, significantly higher than in Haarlem (84 per 10,000) and Utrecht (57 per 10,000), whilst the prevalence for the control conditions were similar in all regions. Phase two is planned to validate school-reported cases using standardized diagnostic methods and to explore the possible causes for these differences.

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Acknowledgments

This study was conducted in association with the NIHR CLAHRC for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. This work was supported by grants to SBC from the Medical Research Council UK, Target Autism Genome, and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation. During this work, MTR was supported by scholarships from the Erasmus fund, the Bekker la Bastide fund and the University of Amsterdam and RAH was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO Rubicon). FM is also supported by the MRC UK (MRC.MC_US_A030_0031.). We gratefully acknowledge the schools for their participation in this project, Geertje Anderson for her contribution to the data collection, and Patrick Wiercx, Marjolijn Weijmans, Ger Maassen, Annelies Spek and Rutger Jan van der Gaag for valuable discussion.

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Correspondence to Simon Baron-Cohen.

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Roelfsema, M.T., Hoekstra, R.A., Allison, C. et al. Are Autism Spectrum Conditions More Prevalent in an Information-Technology Region? A School-Based Study of Three Regions in the Netherlands. J Autism Dev Disord 42, 734–739 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-011-1302-1

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