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Child autism rates twice as high in urban areas, survey reveals

  • Published at 10:26 pm July 12th, 2018
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Speakers address the unveiling ceremony of Nationwide Survey on Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Bangladesh 2017 at BSMMU auditorium in Dhaka on Thursday; July 12, 2018 Dhaka Tribune

Researchers examined the children during door-to-door visits in 85 areas selected at random from 30 districts of the country.

The number of young children suffering from autism in Bangladesh is almost twice as high in towns and cities as in rural areas, a survey has found.

Researchers at the Institute of Paediatric Neuro-disorder and Autism (IPNA) of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) examined 38,440 children between 16 and 30 months from May to November 2017, and found that 17 in every 10,000 had the condition.

The rural prevalence was 14 per 10,000, whereas 25 children per 10,000 were diagnosed in urban areas.

Researchers examined the children during door-to-door visits in 85 areas selected at random from 30 districts of the country.

The resulting “Nationwide Survey on Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Bangladesh 2017” was unveiled by the IPNA at BSMMU auditorium in Dhaka on Thursday.

The university’s vice-chancellor (VC), Prof Dr Kanak Kanti Barua said the IPNA and BSMMU were on hand to support the affected children.

“(We) will always be ready to give proper services for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders,” the said. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 160 children of all ages worldwide has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

ASD refers to a range of conditions characterised by some degree of impaired social behaviour, communication and language. 

In most cases, the conditions are apparent during the first 5 years of life and tends to persist into adolescence and adulthood, with sufferers often subjected to stigma, discrimination and human rights violations. 

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government is sincere towards children with disabilities,” State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Zahid Maleque MP said in his address as chief guest.

“The government has passed two acts specifically for the protection of children and their families who are suffering from disabilities, autism and other neurological problems,” the state minister said.

“Based on the prevalence rate obtained through this survey, we hope it will be possible to undertake sound policies and specific programs in the future for children with autism and their families.”

Special guests at Thursday’s program included Prof Dr Abul Kalam Azad, director general of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS); Syed Manjurul Islam, deputy executive director of icddr,b; and Prof Dr Pran Gopal Datta, vice chairman of Shuchona Foundation. 

Other attendees included Pro VC (Education) of BSMMU Prof Dr Shahana Akhter Rahman, Pro VC (Research and Development) Prof Dr Shahidullah Sikder, Pro VC (Administration) and Prof Dr Sharfuddin Ahmed.

Prof Barua also expressed his gratitude towards the prime minister and her daughter Dr Saima Hossain Wazed, who is the (WHO) Champion for Autism in the South-East Asia region.