Marieka Holmes and Kate Fowle welcomed Dr Michelle Garnett and Professor Tony Attwood from Minds and Hearts.
Marieka Holmes and Kate Fowle welcomed Dr Michelle Garnett and Professor Tony Attwood from Minds and Hearts. Ebony Battersby

Gladstone kids have higher than average chance of autism

CHILDREN in Gladstone run an above-average risk of having autism and other spectrum disorders, visiting psychologists have claimed.

And for many kids, it comes down to their parents' job.

Occupations such as engineering, information technology and accounting are over-representated in statistics of families with children who identified as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Clinical psychologist and senior consultant at Minds and Hearts, Professor Tony Attwood, attributes the link between professions and ASD to several factors, including an attraction to cognitive abilities.

"For an individual on the spectrum, often logical areas of the brain will develop to a more sophisticated level than emotional sides of the brain," he said.

"It would make sense then, to find those individuals seeking vocations in areas where their skills are most suited."

Professor Attwood said the link may be a genetic trait undiscovered in previous generations.

"In modern society, we are more attuned to recognising the characteristics of a child dealing with a spectrum disorder," he said.

"We do find that areas like Gladstone with a high concentration of these trades often experience elevated rates of ASD."

An alternate explanation, according to research supported by Professor Attwood, is the trend of older parenting.

"Parents who start a family later in life, generally 35 years and older, have a higher chance of ASD and Asperger's being present in the family," he said.

Professor Attwood and Dr Michelle Garnett presented two Kids Outside the Box seminars on Friday to sold out audiences.

Families and carers travelled as far as Biloela and Banana to attend the seminars, which aimed to provide advice to spectrum-affected families in regional areas.

Dr Garnett said the diagnosis of ASD or Asperger's was often a lot more challenging when geographically isolated from services and resources.

"It is very much a postcode lottery," she said. "Although technology is of great assistance, we need more services for rural areas."

The seminars provided information to families, carers, teachers and employers, in a bid for wider community awareness.

With one in 88 people in Australian society dealing with an ASD, Professor Attwood said the onus was on everyone to better develop their understanding of these conditions.