Tree canopy coverage predicts lower conduct problem severity in children with ASD
Introduction: Conduct problems are commonly reported among individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and children with other special health care needs (CSHCN). Environmental research indicates that exposure to natural environments can lead to decreased conduct problems; opposite effects (i.e., increased problems) are associated with built “gray” environments (e.g., roadways). Methods: This exploratory study analyzed the association between Zip-code level tree canopy coverage and severity of conduct problems in typical children, children with ASD, and CSHCN. Tree canopy data came from National Land Cover Database and ASD data came from the cross-sectional National Survey of Children’s Health (2011/2012). Results: Percent tree canopy coverage predicted a decreased risk of severe conduct problems in youth with ASD, but not CSHCN; “gray” space was unassociated with conduct problems in any children. Conclusions: Community tree canopy coverage is negatively associated with conduct problems in children with ASD. More research using individual assessments and street level metrics will help better determine the relationship between canopy coverage and conduct problems in ASD.