Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

Shocking Study: One in 38 Kids Found w/ Autism Spectrum Disorder

CJ Westerberg, May 11, 2011 11:30 AM


"Two-thirds of the children with autism
that we ended up identifying were
in mainstream schools, unrecognized, untreated . . ."

Shocking Study: One in 38 Kids Have Autism Spectrum Disorder
Need Help in Building Social Skills and Peer Engagement

NPR reports:

An exhaustive study of autism in one community has found that the disorder is far more common than suggested by earlier research.

The study of 55,000 children in Goyang, South Korea, found that 2.64 percent - one in every 38 children - had an autism spectrum disorder.

"That is two-and-a-half times what the estimated prevalence is in the United States," says Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University and one of the study's authors.

I had some expectation that [autism prevalence was] going to be a little higher than the previous studies, because we're including children from the general population that have been understudied in the past. But the extent - that was a surprise to us."

The South Korean study probably produced such a high figure because it screened a lot of kids who seemed to be doing OK and included in-person evaluations of any child suspected of having autism, Grinker says.

"Two-thirds of the children with autism that we ended up identifying were in mainstream schools, unrecognized, untreated," he says.

The team of Korean and American scientists who carried out the study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, say the result doesn't mean there's something different about South Korean children.

"There's no reason to think that South Korea has more children with autism than anyplace else in the world," says Bennett Leventhal, another author of the study. Leventhal is also deputy director of New York's Nathan Klein Institute for Psychiatric Research and a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University Medical Center.

The study's primary message, Leventhal says, is that "if you really go look carefully among all children everywhere, you find that things are far more common than you previously expected."


Advice to parents? 

The authors say maybe people shouldn't be surprised to find that autism is so common. After all, other brain disorders, such as severe depression, affect more than 2 percent of adults; severe anxiety disorder affects about 4 percent.

And the implications of this study are global, Leventhal says. He says there are powerful reasons to identify all kids with autism, even if they aren't failing in school.

"They're socially awkward and they have trouble making friends. They get in trouble because their behavior is a little odd," he says. "And then when we teach them their skills, they actually can fit in better and succeed better."

Click here for full NPR article plus podcast link;  click here for podcast transcript.

related The Daily Riff:

Temple Grandin: Autistic Awesome Innovator - HBO film clip  
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