The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders at Tara Hospital Child and Adolescent Clinic

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Introduction: There are limited studies on the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in Africa as a continent, and in South Africa in particular. This study is aimed at determining the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders at a specialised psychiatric hospital in Johannesburg. Method: This is a retrospective study based on a sample of 1370 patients aged between 1-17 years of age who were evaluated over a period of 6 years at the Tara Hospital Child and Adolescent Clinic. 76 received a clinical diagnosis of ASD as per the DSM-IV-TR or the DSM-5. All patients that were not diagnosed with ASD and those that were diagnosed with ASD but were above the age of 18, were excluded. Results: The prevalence of ASD was 5.5% with a 95% confidence interval of 4.4% to 6.9%. These children also presented with co-morbid psychiatric illnesses, the most common being ADHD at 72% followed by GAD at 34%. Patients that received OT made up 21%, while 17% were at remedial school as per the recommendation made by the multi-disciplinary team. Conclusion: The findings of this study correlate with other studies that have been conducted. There was also an incidental finding that indicated a higher paternal than maternal heritable contribution of ASD. Further research is recommended to measure the outcomes of the cases that were diagnosed.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Medicine (MMed) in Paediatrics to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, School of Clinical Medicine, Johannesburg, 2023
Autism spectrum disorders, Autism