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Study: Somali kids tend to be hit harder by Autism

Years of civil war in Somalia have brought a lot of refugees from that East African nation to the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California is one state that has attracted significant numbers. The largest clustering, however, has occurred in Minnesota.

Recently, some researchers at the University of Minnesota released findings of a study that shows some interesting information related to the prevalence and severity of autism in Somali-heritage children. Considering that parents of children with severe autism may be eligible for government help through Supplemental Security Income, we feel this might be useful information to share.

The study by the university's Institute on Community Integration is said to be the largest of its kind ever conducted. It looked at medical records of children from thousands of participating families of various nationalities; white, Somali, non-Somali black and Hispanic. What it found were some significant, as-yet-unexplained, differences.

For one thing, researchers determined that white and Somali children were at least twice as likely to meet the criteria for an autism diagnosis than non-Somali black and Hispanic children and that rates were about equal among whites and Somali children. One in 32 Somali children in the study met the criteria. The rate among white children was 1 in 36.

What may be more surprising is that the severity of autism is much higher among the Somali population. While about a third of all the study children had some form of related intellectual disability, all of the Somali subjects with autism had such a disability.

Autism is recognized by the Social Security Administration as a potential mental disability. As the agency's website explains, children under the age of 18 who are disabled and who meet the government's standard for financial need may be entitled to SSI payments.

Those wondering if they have a legitimate claim to seek benefits would do well to contact an experienced attorney to consider their options.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Autism Hits Somali Kids Harder, Study Finds," Jeremy Olson, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dec. 17, 2013

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