Higher autism prevalence in children prenatally exposed to alcohol: pilot study

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Published Wednesday, June 22, 2016 12:01AM EDT

A pilot study found that the prevalence of autism among children prenatally exposed to alcohol was significantly higher than the prevalence in the overall Canadian population.

The study, which was presented at the Canadian Paediatric Society’s annual conference in P.E.I. in 2016, examined the case reports of 300 Ontario children aged three to 16 who were exposed to alcohol in the womb.

Researchers reviewed the case reports to determine the prevalence of autism, number of children diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and other demographic data.

FASDs are a group of conditions that can present in children whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy, and are among the leading causes of cognitive and developmental disability among Canadian children. FASD symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include physical, mental, behavioural, and learning disabilities.

The researchers found that 4.7 per cent (or 14) of the 300 children had been diagnosed with autism. By comparison, the prevalence of autism among the general Canadian population is 1.1 per cent.

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