Autism Numbers Spike in South Korea
A May 9th report has revealed a new piece in the autism puzzle. A comprehensive study conducted in South Korea, which included 55,000 children, found that among those age 7-12, one in 38 had some form of Autism . The study assessed all autism disorders which fall within the "spectrum," including the relatively mild social disorder, Asperger's Syndrome.
The study is startling because research conducted in the United States has concluded that roughly one in 110 individuals has some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The authors of the report cite a number of differences in the approaches of the Korean study and those conducted in the United States.
Autism research in the United States has primarily focused on children already in special education programs, failing to look at the entire school-age population across all levels of functioning and intellect. This suggests that there may be high numbers of children in the United States with Autism who function well enough to escape identification as having a learning disability.
The study was partially funded by Autism Speaks and lead by the Yale Child Study Center's Young-Shin Kim. Kim conceded that there are potential risk factors in the South Korean study which may have been overlooked such as genetic and environmental factors. Both South Korea and the United States, however, have seen increases in the number of autism diagnoses due to greater public awareness and expanding diagnostic criteria.
The researchers also emphasized that the findings of this exhaustive, 5-year study, do not necessarily indicate that South Korea has higher numbers of people with autism, but that worldwide autism is often discounted or misdiagnosed. Autism Speaks is currently funding other studies in India, Mexico, South Africa, and Taiwan with the hope that this question can be definitively answered without the current discrepancies in national statistics.Continued on the next page