A new study just released in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found that the rate of autism among children may be more than double what previous studies have found. The research concluded by an international team of scientists, revealed that 1 in 38 children may currently suffer with an autism spectrum disorder, as opposed to the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) previously-divulged rate of 1 in 100.
Dr. Young-Shin Kim of the Yale Child Study Center co-authored the reasearch, which was carried out in South Korea. One of the goals of Kim’s study was to to get a clearer picture of and adjust autism rate realities by detecting untreated cases of autism among mainstreamed children in the community. From the Asscoicated Press:
By casting a wider net and looking closely at mainstream children, the researchers expected to find a higher rate of autism characteristics. But they were surprised at how high the rate was. They don’t think South Korea has more children with autism than the United States, but instead that autism often goes undiagnosed in many nations.
U.S. estimates are based on education and medical records, not the more time-consuming survey conducted in South Korea. Two-thirds of the children with autism traits in the study were in the mainstream school population, hadn’t been diagnosed before and weren’t getting any special services.
Many of those undiagnosed children likely have mild social impairments, rather than more severe autism. “It doesn’t mean all of a sudden there are more new children with (autism spectrum disorders),” said co-author Dr. Young-Shin Kim of the Yale Child Study Center. “They have been there all along, but were not counted in previous prevalence studies.”
This new evidence comes at a time when both popular culture and some in the world medical community have suggested that the staggering prevalence of autism may be exaggerated, or part of an alarmist cultural myth.
The new study’s findings help debunk the idea that Autism may be a disorder influenced by socio-economic standing or regionality. Now more than ever, science is uncovering that autism is not only often misunderstood, but also a global health issue for children that needs to be more aggressively addressed.
According to Autism Speaks–the largest advocacy and educational foundation for Autism awareness:
This study is further evidence that autism transcends cultural, geographic, and ethnic boundaries and that autism is a major global public health concern, not limited to the Western world. To date, there is no evidence of differences in the way ASD is expressed in children around the world; however it is possible that cultural factors may impact diagnostic practices and prevalence estimates. As a result, the South Korean study took a comprehensive approach to mitigate potential cultural bias.
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