For the study, researchers asked schools in three regions of the Netherlands -- Eindhoven, Haarlem and Utrecht -- for statistics on children with an autism spectrum disorder. Children with autism often struggle with communication and social interactions, exhibit repetitive behaviors and have strong but narrow interests.
All three regions are similar in population size and socioeconomics, but Eindhoven is the Netherland's information technology hub. It's home to Eindhoven University of Technology, the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, and several technology companies, including Philips, ASML, IBM and ATOS Origin.
About 30 percent of jobs in Eindhoven are in technology or ICT compared to 16 percent in Haarlem and 17 percent in Utrecht.
The schools provided diagnostic information on more than 62,500 children. About 2.3 percent (or 229 for every 10,000) children in Eindhoven had autism, almost three times as many as in Haarlem (84 per 10,000) and four times as many as in Utrecht (57 per 10,000).
The rate in the United States is estimated to be about 1 percent.
Dr. Gary Goldstein, president and CEO of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, said the findings mirror his experiences with parents of autistic children. "I haven't met that many high-end people in sales with children with autism, but I met all these very successful people in the backroom processing the data," he said.
And while a doubling or a tripling of the risk is "enormous" in statistical terms, parents should also rest assured that it still means the vast majority of children -- 98 percent -- born to engineers or high-tech types will not have autism.
Researchers acknowledged their study had limitations, including the possibility that parents in the high-tech region were more attuned to the signs of autism and that the kids were more likely to be
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