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This study aims to estimate Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) prevalence in school-aged children in the province of Pisa (Italy) using the strategy of the ASD in the European Union (ASDEU) project.
A multistage approach was used to identify cases in a community sample (N = 10 138) of 7–9-year-old children attending elementary schools in Pisa – Italy. First, the number of children with a disability certificate was collected from the Local Health Authority and an ASD diagnosis was verified by the ASDEU team. Second, a Teacher Nomination form (TN) to identify children at risk for ASD was filled in by teachers who joined the study and the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) was filled in by the parents of children identified as positive by the TN; a comprehensive assessment, which included the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Second Edition, was performed for children with positive TN and SCQ⩾9.
A total of 81 children who had a disability certificate also had ASD (prevalence: 0.79%, i.e. 1/126). Specifically, 66 children (57 males and nine females; 62% with intellectual disability –ID-) were certified with ASD, whereas another 15 (11 males and four females; 80% with ID) were recognised as having ASD among those certified with another neurodevelopmental disorder. Considering the population of 4417 (children belonging to schools which agreed to participate in the TN/SCQ procedure) and using only the number of children certified with ASD, the prevalence (38 in 4417) was 0.86%, i.e. one in 116. As far as this population is concerned, the prevalence rises to 1% if we consider the eight new cases (six males and two females; no subject had ID) identified among children with no pre-existing diagnoses and to 1.15%, i.e., one in 87, if probabilistic estimation is used.
This is the first population-based ASD prevalence study conducted in Italy so far and its results indicate a prevalence of ASD in children aged 7–9 years of about one in 87. This finding may help regional, national and international health planners to improve ASD policies for ASD children and their families in the public healthcare system.
This study, carried out in two Italian Institutions, assesses the frequency of 27 potential autism risk factors related to pregnancy and peri- and postnatal periods by interviewing mothers who had children with autism, children with autism and one or two typically developing siblings, or only typically developing children. The clinical sample included three case groups: 73 children and adolescents with autism (Group A), 35 children and adolescents with autism (Group A1) having 45 siblings (Group B) and 96 typically developing children (Group C) matched for gender and age. Twenty-five out of 27 of risk factors presented a higher frequency in Group A in comparison with Group C and for nine of them a statistically significant difference was found. Twenty-one out of 27 of risk factors presented a higher frequency in Group A in comparison with Group B. A higher prevalence of environmental risk factors was observed in 11 risk factors in the Group A1 in comparison with Group B and for nine of them an odds ratio higher than 1.5 was found. For 13 factors there was a progressive increase in frequency going from Group C, B and A and a statistically higher prevalence of the mean number of stressful events per pregnancy was recorded in Group A when compared with Groups B and C. The results suggest that environmental, incidental phenomena and stressful life events can influence pregnancy outcome in predisposed subjects, pointing out a possible threshold effect in women who are predisposed to have suboptimal pregnancies.
This editorial offers a concise overview of the recent structural magnetic resonance imaging studies that evaluate the basal ganglia (BG) volumes in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The putative relationship between the repetitive or stereotyped behaviours of ASD and BG volumes is also explored, with a focus on possible translational approaches.
This brief review encompasses the key findings of structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (sMRI) research on amygdala volume in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We also highlight the possible correlation between the autistic behavioural phenotype and amygdala alteration.
This brief review aims to examine the structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) studies on corpus callosum in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and discuss the clinical and demographic factors involved in the interpretation of results.
To study the potential use of child behaviour checklist (CBCL) 1.5–5 scales for the early identification of preschoolers at risk of autism.
CBCL scores of three groups of preschoolers were compared: (1) an experimental group of 101 preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); (2) a control group of 95 preschoolers with other psychiatric disorders (OPD); (3) a control group of 117 preschoolers with typical development (TD). One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), logistic regression with odds ratio (OR) and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analyses were performed.
ANOVA revealed that ASD and OPD had significantly higher scores in almost all CBCL scales than TD. ASD presented significantly higher scores than OPD on Withdrawn, Attention Problems and Pervasive Developmental Problems (PDP) scales. Logistic regression analysis demonstrated that these same CBCL scales have validity in predicting the presence of an ASD towards both TD and OPD. ROC analysis indicated high sensitivity and specificity for PDP (0.85 and 0.90) and Withdrawn (0.89 and 0.92) scales when ASD is compared to TD. Specificity (0.60 for PDP and 0.65 for Withdrawn) decreases when comparing ASD and OPD
The PDP and Withdrawn scales have a good predictive validity so that they could be proposed as a first-level tool to identify preschoolers at risk of autism in primary care settings. Problems regarding the lower specificity when comparing ASD v. OPD are discussed.
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