Do Even More Children Have Autism?

Autism may be far more prevalent than once thought

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) According to the CDC, autism affects 1 in 110 children. But that number may grossly underestimate how many children and families actually suffer.

A new study has shown that autism spectrum disorder (ASD)  is seen in 1 in 38 children in South Korea, an estimated 2.64% of the population of school-age children.

The most comprehensive study of its kind was conducted by Young-Shin Kim, M.D., of the Yale Child Study Center and her colleagues in the U.S., Korea and Canada. Because the study identifies children not yet diagnosed, the results have the potential to increase autism spectrum disorder prevalence (how often a disease is seen) estimates worldwide.

"If your child has trouble commmunicating, talk to your doctor."

ASDs are complex brain disorders that interfere with a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships. Behavioral challenges are often seen with ASDs.

“We were able to find more children with ASD and describe the full spectrum of ASD clinical characteristics,” said Kim, assistant professor in the Yale Child Study Center. “Recent research reveals that part of the increase in reported ASD prevalence appears attributable to factors such as increased public awareness and broadening of diagnostic criteria. This study suggests that better case finding may actually account for an even larger increase.”

According to Kim, the study’s corresponding author and experts disagree about the causes and significance of reported increases in ASD, partly because of variations in how it's diagnosed and incomplete studies establishing actual population-based rates.

A member of the research team, cultural anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker of George Washington University, said, “While this study does not suggest that Koreans have more autism than any other population in the world, it does suggest that autism may be more common than previously thought.”

The study has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The Study

  • Reports on about 55,000 children ages 7 to 12 years in a South Korean community
  • Children were enrolled in special education services and a disability registry, as well as children attending general education schools
  • All children were assessed the same way using multiple clinical evaluations
  • This method revealed cases that could have gone unnoticed
  • More than two-thirds of the ASD cases in the study were found in the mainstream school population, unrecognized and untreated
  • Research team took steps to minimize potential cultural biases that could impact diagnostic practices and prevalence estimates
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 9, 2011
Last Updated:
May 12, 2011