Sat, Apr 19, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Reported cases of autism on the rise

RIGHT DIRECTION:The increased rates of children being reported with autism shows the progression of society toward being more open-minded about medical conditions

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Research by National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) found that reported cases of autism in Taiwan have been climbing over the years, with the percentage leaning toward the male population and urban areas over females and rural areas, suggesting that the public is becoming more open-minded about medical conditions.

Jointly conducted by the university’s department of environmental and occupational health led by professor Guo How-ran (郭浩然), Ditmanson Medical Foundation Chiayi Christian Hospital department of rehabilitation doctor Lai Te-tsung (賴德聰), Chang Jung Christian University department of business administration assistant professor Tseng Yen-cheng (曾妍娟) and others, the research was based on government registrations of children from three to 17 years of age diagnosed with mental illnesses from 2004 to 2009.

The research included follow-ups on those diagnosed with developmental problems, learning issues and autism, while cross-referencing the prevalence and percentages of such conditions in Taiwan for different age groups, genders and regions.

The research discovered an increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism, climbing from 2,995 in 2004 to 7,479 in 2009, with a growing prevalence across all age groups. The research also found that males had a higher percentage of being autistic, roughly five to six times that of females.

The registration rate in urban areas was twice that of rural areas, the research found, though that might be due to the higher alertness of medical staff and parents, and the greater numbers of people living in these areas.

The medical resources at the disposal of urban hospitals may also be a factor in the higher percentages, the research wrote, citing the higher number of doctors practicing child psychiatry.

The research named Taipei as an example, which contributed more reports of autism than any other city in the nation.

Guo said the majority of autism patients, a form of brain disease, carry the condition congenitally.

The increased rates of individuals being reported with autism shows the gradual progression of Taiwanese society toward being more open-minded about medical conditions, Guo said.

The more society learns about autism, the more accepting it is of people with the condition, Guo added.

Such progression owes a great debt to Taiwan’s Welfare Regulations for the Handicapped and Disabled (殘障福利法) and the system of registration, Guo said, adding that these added to the level of care given to disadvantaged people.

However, Guo said the numbers of recorded autistism cases in the US and the EU are 10 times higher than in Taiwan, showing that though Taiwan has moved a step in the right direction, it still has a long way to go.

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