Monday, July 28, 2008

Autism and Mortality Rates

In Mortality Rates in Autism Nestor L. Lopez-Duran Ph.D. , child psychologist, neuroscience researcher and blogger ( Autism Research Blog: Translating Autism) comments on a study examining an important and seldom discussed aspect of autism - mortality rates. Parents don't like to think about their child's life span and the likelihood that it will be shorter than that of the general population - or their own. I know I don't.

Mortality Rates in Autism is Lopez-Duran's review of Mouridsen, S.E., Bronnum-Hansen, H., Rich, B., Isager, T. (2008). Mortality and causes of death in autism spectrum disorders: An update. Autism, 12(4), 403-414. DOI: 10.1177/1362361308091653. He mentions a number of surprising facts disclosed by the Mouridsen et al study which suggests that autistic people, particularly autistic women, die much sooner than the general populaton.

What also struck me was the statement that "The cause of death commonly reported among the cohort with ASDs was epilepsy." My son does not have an epilepsy diagnosis but he does exhibit behavior which appears to me, as a layperson, to reflect epileptic behavior, including physical energy surges which cause him to become rigid and make growling noises, and the increasingly frequent rolling of his eyes back in his head. The possibility of epilepsy in addition to autistic disorder has been more in my mind of late and the thought that it could be a major cause of premature death of autistic persons is unsettling.

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