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Autism study findings point to further questions

Somali children are more likely to be in preschool autism programs in Minneapolis than their non-Somali peers, according to a study released by the Minnesota Department of Health on Tuesday, the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press reported.

While 0.2 to 0.7 percent of non-Somali children ages 3 and 4 were in preschool autism programs from 2005 to 2008, 0.9 to 1.5 percent of Somali children of the same age were in the programs, the Star Tribune reported.

The study confirmed a suspicion among the Somali community that Somali children were enrolled in the autism programs at a higher proportion than non-Somali children, the Pioneer Press reported.

But the study did not prove that Somali children are more likely be autistic than non-Somali children, or answer why a higher proportion of Somali than non-Somali children are enrolled in the programs, the Star Tribune reported.

Instead, officials said that the finding prompts further research, which could include a broader state-wide survey of autism, as well as examination of autism screening, the Pioneer Press reported.

Some researchers see the finding as pointing to an opportunity to study the causes of autism in a focused population, the Star Tribune reported.