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South Korean Study Shows Autism May Be More Common than Previously Thought

A study in one South Korean community that KSMU and NPR told you about Monday finds that autism is far more common that previously suggested. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky talks about the findings with the director of a local autism center…

Susan Henderson is director of the Center for Autism at Burrell Behavioral Health. She first heard about the study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, on Monday…

"My first thought was, 'wow, that is a large number,' obviously. I think what it says, to me, is that there is still a lot of work in looking at 'how do we count kids?' but more importantly, 'who are we missing and what services should we be providing for those kids that we're missing?'"

The study of 55,000 children ages seven to 12 over a five-year period in Goyang, South Korea, found that one in every 38 children has an autism spectrum disorder.The Center for Disease Control estimates that an average of one in 110 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder.Henderson hopes the South Korean study will result in more kids who are on the autism spectrum being diagnosed and getting help…

"The way the numbers are looked at now is by looking at medical reports or educational reports--that's how the Center for Disease Control's numbers came about--and so, there are kids who do fall through the cracks. I think what it says--the study--just brings to mind again is that there are kids that we are missing, and the importance of that is they're not getting some of the skill building--some of the treatments that could impact their lives in a positive way."

She says education is key—for both professionals and parents—is key to making sure kids on the autism spectrum are diagnosed…

"Not that we want to go out and diagnose everybody that has a little bit of social awkwardness saying, 'oh, that child is on the spectrum,' but, again, it brings to mind of saying, 'oh, let's be vigilant here. Let's look.'"

Henderson says diagnosis and treatment are extremely important in helping kids with autism be successful.