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Catherine Lord, director of the University of Michigan's Autism and Communication Disorders Center, said the study is stronger than previous research focusing on paternal age, and "gives us a fuller picture of what is going on."
Autism is a developmental disorder that involves mild to severe problems with behavior, communication and socializing.
Recent data suggest about 1 in 100 U.S. children are autistic, a rate that appears to have increased substantially in recent decades. Many experts believe that rise reflects better awareness and a broadening of the definition of autism rather than a true increase in affected children.
Births to older mothers also have risen in recent years, but that likely only accounts for a small part of the increase in cases, said study co-author and UC-Davis researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto.
Dr. Edwin Cook, an autism researcher with University of Illinois at Chicago, offered a novel theory for why autism is more common among children with older parents: Autism is known to run in families and it may be that adults with mild or undiagnosed autism have children at later ages, Cook said.
The study doesn't include information on autism in adults.
On the Net:
Government autism information: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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