Autism Awareness poster
A South Korean study has found that autism rates could be higher than estimated. Photo Credit: E-Advocate/Flickr.com/CC-BY-SA

Studies from various countries are indicating that autism rates among children may be greater than current estimates. A recent South Korean study found a higher number of children tested positive for autism than had been diagnosed. The implication is that many cases of autism go undiagnosed.

Study finds some children go undiagnosed

A South Korean study is being published in the American Psychiatry Journal about the prevalence of autism among children. The study contends more children may have the disorder than are diagnosed with it. The study, according to USA Today, was compiled over a five-year period and was performed by sending a questionnaire to the families of more than 55,000 schoolchildren ages 7 to 12. Of the 55,266 families who received the survey, 23,234 (about 63 percent) responded. The survey was conducted in Goyang City, a suburb of Seoul. The survey was an autism screening test to see how many children among the general population screened positive for autism. The study found more children tested positive for an autism spectrum disorder than had been diagnosed with one.

Autism could affect 1 in 38

Of the 23,234 children whose families responded, 1,214 students screened positive for autism, according to CNN. Of those 1,214, only 294 children were enrolled in special education of some manner. In that group, according to the New York Times, 59 percent were mentally disabled and more than 67 percent were autistic. However, outside of those already diagnosed with a mental disability, 286 children were tested for an autism spectrum disorder and 201 were diagnosed with a form of autism. The area the study was conducted in has a population of nearly 500,000, and subjects were chosen at random. The study, funded mostly by the Autism Speaks foundation, estimated that the rate of autism in the general population of South Korea could be as high as 1 in 38, or between 2 percent and 3 percent of the general population. The American Centers for Disease Control estimates 1 in 110 children have autism in the U.S.

The implications

The South Korean study differs from other studies of autism in that it draws from the general population rather than just children considered to be high risk. The implication is that more children may have autism than are diagnosed with it, and especially more girls as males have nearly four times the risk of developing autism. Autism, or more accurately autism spectrum disorder or ASD, has no known cause nor cure. Therapy can mitigate it but does not work in all cases. Types of autism occur across a spectrum ranging from near catatonic disability to mild impairment. The Centers for Disease Control states that autism diagnosis can be conclusive as early as 2 years of age, but confirming the type of autism usually occurs later. The cost of caring for a person with autism a their lifetime can exceed $3.2 million.

Sources

USA Today: http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/medical/autism/story/2011/05/Study-finds-higher-rate-of-autism-in-US/46967724/1

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/09/health/research/09autism.html?_r=1&hp

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/05/09/autism.study/index.html?hpt=Sbin

CDC on Autism: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

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