The prevalence and clinical characteristics of autism spectrum disorder in children aged 1-15 years seen at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka,Zambia

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Nkole, Lisa Kafula
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The University of Zambia
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication and the presence of stereotyped repetitive behaviours. Despite the increase in the global prevalence of ASD, few studies have been done in Sub-Saharan Africa. The prevalence of ASD in Zambia is not known. This study determined the prevalence of ASD and described the clinical characteristics seen in the diagnosed children at a tertiary hospital in Zambia. This was a hospital based, cross sectional study conducted in two stages (i) screening with an autism RED FLAG SYMPTOM CHECKLIST and (ii) diagnosis using the DSM V CRITERIA FOR ASD. It was conducted in the Paediatric out patients department, at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia over an eight month period from May 2016 to January 2017. Five hundred and sixty participants were enrolled in this study. Fifteen children (2.6%) reported at least one red flag symptom. Of these, eight fulfilled the DSM V diagnostic criteria for ASD. Therefore, the prevalence of ASD in this study was 1.4 %. Common clinical characteristics seen in the children with ASD were male sex, age between 36-48 months and inability to utter a single word by the age of two years (non-verbal symptomatology). Paternal and maternal age above 30 years at the time of the child’s birth and high parental education levels were the common socio-demographic characteristics seen in the group of children with ASD. The prevalence of ASD at this tertiary institution was 1.4 %. An increase in public awareness and knowledge of the early warning signs of autism and training of health personnel in the recognition, diagnosis and management of children living with ASD is warranted. Large scale population studies are needed to ascertain the national prevalence of ASD
Austism--Children--Zambia , Developmental disabilities--Therapy--Zambia , Child psychopathology--Treatment