Links Found Between Autism and Migration

19/05/2010 § 1 Comment

Autism and migration. Claudia finds out why leaving your country of birth to live elsewhere could pose a health risk to any children you later have in your new adoptive country. For the first time a large-scale study has shown that the risk of autism could be as much as five times higher in children whose mothers migrated to the UK from the Caribbean, Africa or Asia. She discusses this with Daphne Keen consultant paediatrician at St George’s Hospital in London.

Health Check on BBC World Service 17th May 2010

Listen here

First study to look at more than 400 children.

Following up on sporadic reports over the years, one study from Austialia in mid 1970’s which noticed an increase in autism in children born to German and Greek immigrants.

Looking at 400 children born in UK. Found an increased risk if parents had migrated from the Caribbean, Africa or Asia but not from other European counties.

The size of the increase of the risk, was greatest for the Caribbean population which was at least 5 times. the risk was significant but a bit less for the African population and a much smaller but still elevated fro those the Asian population.

Is ethnicity the factor then?  No. When the children whose parents had migrated from the Caribbean and Africa, were compared to those children who were born also born to parents from Caribbean and Africa but in UK. When analysed together the risk fell considerably, therefore it suggested that immigration is the major factor and ethnicity was just possibly a factor.

An idea to consider: the residual effect is in fact and attenuated risk observed in second and third generation, but has not been studied.

Could it be a by product of the stresses of migration?  – Although it is unkown what causes autism, it is not considered to be linked with adversity or  socio economic factors. However some links have been suggested between those kind of stress factors and social isolations and the on set of schizophrenia.

It was observed in this study that the child with autism was not always the first child to be born in the family following the migration.


My Notes from the Refugee Wellbeing Conference

14/12/2009 § Leave a comment

Refugee Health and Wellbeing Conference

November 18-20, 2009

Finding a mention of this amazing gathering somewhere on the net only at 3am on the morning of the last day, did not stop me from trying to catch what I could. So here are the points I found most interesting from the program of the 3rd day. The whole programme can be viewed here.

INTRO (Gary Poole)

Themes Emerged from 1st 2 days:

The strenghths are: Human Rights

– a basic rights of citizenship

– pursuit of a life worth living

problem: people brought in as individuals to build a community. [this seems to be replicating the community back home – therefore independent of/isolated from the host country]

non-western cultures are collectivist cultures – only effective when operating together – they are only just reaching enough numbers for to function properly

(see ‘Standards for Engagement’ document from ChangeMakers which talks about a “common humanity”)

western/nz cultures are individualist cultures – members need only take responsibility for themselves.

Mental health in nz operates on individualist ideas rather than collectivist. “As a result” Adam says “They mess with our Mana.”

Common goal: the full participation of former refugees in NZ society.
Refugees social templates are close to Maori social templates.
__(Maori word that sounds like pouhuri)___ ideas of leadership are different Adam’s vision: powerful white experts trained by ex refugees
there is much potential to those of refugee background working within the sector.The opinion is growing that nothing should be done for refugees without refugee involvement.

Pouhuri (or sound similar(working to find the exact word)):
power of accepting all that you are.

My Questions/Notes: Do you think NZ accepts your previous cultural identity?Im interested in the sucess/faluer of ways immigrants finding a NZ identity.

Youth Stream


Triple R: Culturally responsive services to work with refugee youths recovering from mental health problems
Chaykham Choummanivong

What I though was excellent phrasing: “perhaps I haven’t faced some of what the other refugee children have but having been close to them, I have gained insight.”

Regarding the research into the mental wellbeing of newcomers youth:
there is a spectrum of experience there is good and there is bad and there is everything in between.
Quote from participant: “its hard but once you learn the language it is like you’re born again”

Discussion. Points covered: Engagement Difficulties Challenges in setting culturally acceptable goals, Liasing with other agencies, Poorly matched interpreters, Lack of clutural awareness.

” it is a 3-legged race – vision of mental health, public health and other aggencies struggling together.”

Psychological problems often reflect a poor fit between the requirements of the settings in which people live and work and the adaptive resources to which they have access.
Prevention needs to be prioritised.

“…capacity building but according to which paradime?”

Refugee youth in NZ: How well are they doing?
Dr Amritha Sobrun-Maharaj, Associate Professor Samson Tse, Dr Ekramul Hoque, Dr Fiona Rossen

Socail racism through personal attitudes leads to institutional racism (most damaging).
Miss understanding of concepts leads to assumptions and those lead to prejudice.
Training in cultural compliance is needed.
The greater the differences in phisical appearance generally the greter the negative impact.
Lack of family support for youth
Mental health: developmental changes->to become what they are -> problems in retaining clutural identity -> identity conflict.
Internalising notions of inferiority (eg. young black men)

Immigrant youth – self harm study (particularly interesting results)

Empowerment of refugee communities is needed.
They needs to be SHOWN how to deal the process of immigration & reassurance that it is good to take from both sides.
Youth come to NZ with very high resilience it has to be developed further and adopted to its use in NZ.

Functional coping stratergies have to be taught.

Effects of pre-migration and post-migration factors on adaptation experiences of war-affected refugee children and youth in Winnipeg Society
Md. Mahmudur Rahman Bhuiyan

Youth refugees living in South Australia: An exploratory study of help seeking for social, emotional, behavioural and mental health problems
Helena de Anstiss

Emotional wellbeing of children and adolescents of refugee background settled in South Australia
Dr. Tahereh Ziaian, Helena De Anstiss, Lynda Caudel, A/Prof Peter Baghurst, Prof Mi-chael Sawyer, A/Prof, Nicholas Procter.

Engagement and autonomy
Zaif Kahn, Jennifer Janif, Ailsa Wilson, Hassan Husaini



I was left wondering why is it a “Refugee Wellbeing Conference”? As Zaif Kahn/Hassan Husaini pointed out when talking about how to discuss family violence with refugee families or communities to them it is not a concern, what is a concern is their children achiving good academic standars, keeping true to their culture – therefore THAT is the turms it has to be discussed in. In a similar spirit I think; what are we trying to do? – how to best intergrate, often vunerable newcomers to the country into the New Zealand society and culture. A lot of these ARE refugees, but im not sure how much good the constant use of the term is doing. Some of these newcomers are here for over a decade, their childeren have been born here, or were very small, yet they are still refugees… surely we should be aiming to stop labelling at some point.

“The foreigner isolated from his fellow countrymen and his family should be a subject of greater love on the part of men and the Gods.” – Plato

– if they are not allowed to obtain new countrymen we are standing in the way of the human capacity to adapt.  – Adam Awad (ChangeMakers Refugee forum)

Notes still to be expanded:

1st 2nd
budist’s research
what did the ethiopians think?
Book and media workshop in wellington – Samson
Why was I there?

Links of Interest:

ChangeMakers Refugee Forum –

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