MONDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- An estimated one in 38 South Korean children -- or 2.6 percent -- has an autism spectrum disorder, a new study says -- figures that experts believe could be similar in the United States.
Estimates of autism prevalence in the United States generally currently put the number at about 1 in 110 children, or less than 1 percent.
But those numbers may be underestimates because they rely on information about children who have been diagnosed with autism or who have autism symptoms noted in their medical records, explained Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, a New York City-based advocacy and research organization, which funded the research.
The new South Korean study used a more comprehensive, population-based approach that looked for autism among all children, including those in mainstream schools who had never been identified as having problems.
The researchers said it's likely that using a similar approach in the United States would also spot more kids with autism spectrum disorders.
"We expect the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in the United States and in other countries, if we used the same method, will be in the range of 2 to 3 percent," said Dr. Young Shin Kim, an assistant professor at the Child Study Center at the Yale University School of Medicine and lead author of the study.
However, Kim stressed that the study does not provide evidence that more children are developing autism nowadays vs. before. Rather, she said, "it means they have been there all along but have not been counted in previous prevalence studies."
Kim also said that she and her team were "surprised by the magnitude" of the difference from earlier estimates.
Their findings were published online May 9 online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
For their study, researchers from Yale and Ge
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