Israel – A study recently conducted by child psychologist, developmental specialist and chairmen of the Israeli Association of Child Development and Rehabilitation Dr. Mitchell Shertz showed that autism is less common in ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities.
The study looked at Meuhedet health maintenance organizations data of 450,000 children up to age 18 and found that there was only 2.5 cases per 1,000 children for ultra-Orthodox populations, and only 3 cases per 1,000 children in Arab populations. Secular and nations with one primary faith had autism in 5.5 to 9 children per 1,000.
Another study published in May by Harvard University, public health association doctors and the National Insurance Institute yielded similar results. In their examination of children diagnosed with autism between 1992-2009 they found that only 12% were non-Haredi Jews and 6% were Arab, a rate considered much lower then other populations.
There are many theories for these studies findings, the most popular of them being under-diagnosis. Yet Shertz stresses it has less to do with failing to diagnose and more to do with the age of the parents. Like other learning differences, the possibility of having a child with autism goes up considerably when parents start their families at a later age. Since most, if not all, of populations in study typically have children at a younger age the rate of autism shrivels greatly.
The original article by Ido Efrati on the Haaretz website can be read here
Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead