A study from researchers at the University of California, Davis tracked the rates of autism diagnoses among children born in California between 1996 and 2000, and the findings aren't necessarily surprising.
"What we found with these clusters was that they correlated with neighborhoods of high education or neighborhoods that were near a major treatment center for autism," Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a researcher and professor of public health sciences, said in an email statement.
For instance, a statistically significant cluster of autism spectrum disorder cases were identified surrounding the Golden Gate Regional Center, which offers services and treatment to those with developmental disabilities in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties.
The methodology tracked children from birth, which means that the numbers shouldn't reflect parents of children later diagnosed with autism moving near treatment centers.
It suggests that being born near an autism treatment center correlates to being diagnosed with autism. Children are generally diagnosed with an ASD by age three.
While correlation does not imply causation, it seems that children born to educated, white parents who live near an autism treatment center are far more likely to be diagnosed with ASD -- and should raise questions about whether the number of autism cases correlates to the proximity of specialists who diagnose autism, and parents who can afford to seek such treatment.
Jackson West figures that since autism treatment doesn't generally involve medication, at least pharmaceutical advertising isn't to blame, but also wonders if a diagnosis of autism doesn't serve to reinforce a child's perception of their lack of interpersonal social skills.