The topic of this chapter is neurodevelopmental disabilities, with discussion focused on three prototypic neurodevelopmental disorders: mental retardation, autism, and cerebral palsy. These disorders are highlighted because the epidemiologic knowledge is more advanced; however, many of the important methodologic issues apply to other neurodevelopmental disorders. The chapter discusses the particular research challenges in achieving complete case ascertainment due to the problems of case finding and case confirmation. It presents information about the prevalence of each of these disorders and temporal changes in frequency over time, as well as the possible factors contributing to increased recognition of these disorders. The chapter summarizes investigations of risk factors for each disorder, including genetic factors and possible environmental etiologies.
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