By Jenn Savedge, MNN
There is no doubt that the number of children diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically over the last few years. Is it because more children are actually autistic or is it because teachers and parents are simply better at detecting the signs and symptoms of the disorder? Probably a combination of both.
Recently, a group of researchers set about to determine just how prevalent autism is in our modern society. Their results were shocking, even to them. The international team of investigators from the U.S., South Korea and Canada evaluated 55,000 children in Goyang, South Korea, and found the prevalence of autism to be 2.64 percent — or about one in every 38 children.
The biggest difference between this study and similar autism studies is that the researchers evaluated all school children — not just those who were already flagged as having potential for behavioral or academic problems.
“Two-thirds of the children with autism that we ended up identifying were in mainstream schools — unrecognized, untreated,” said Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at The George Washington University and one of the study’s authors.
The study’s authors stressed that the large percentage of children with autism in this study — roughly two and a half times the current rate for the U.S. — is not an indication that this particular South Korean town has a greater incidence of autism than anywhere else in the world. Rather, they think the numbers are so high because they were able to look at the general population, not just at kids who have already been diagnosed.
“There’s no reason to think that South Korea has more children with autism than anyplace else in the world,” said Bennett Leventhal, deputy director of New York’s Nathan Klein Institute for Psychiatric Research and another of the study’s authors.
The study’s primary message, Leventhal says, is that “if you really go look carefully amongst all children everywhere, you find that things are far more common than you previously expected.”
What do you think? Do you think that the current rate of autism in the U.S. could be as high as 1 in 38?