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Original Articles

Presenting symptoms of autism in Sri Lanka: analysis of a clinical cohort

Authors:

Hemamali Perera ,

Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, LK
About Hemamali
Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo
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Kamal Chandima Jeewandara,

Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, LK
About Kamal

Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura

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Chandima Guruge,

Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Colombo
About Chandima
Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Colombo
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Sudarshi Seneviratne

Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo
About Sudarshi
Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo
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Abstract

Introduction: Diagnosis of autism is based on the presence of social interactional and communication impairment and certain behavioural characteristics. Most documented accounts on symptom profiles in autism come from developed countries and studies on ethnically different populations are few, although this knowledge is crucial to screening and early recognition. Common presentation of autism in Sri Lanka has not been identified.

Method: The data for this descriptive study was obtained from an existing computerised data-base of a clinical cohort of children diagnosed with autism. Diagnosis was made on prospective data gathered from: (i) parental report on development and behaviour and (ii) direct observational assessment of social interaction and communication, quality of play and abnormal patterns of behaviour. Final diagnosis of autism was made on fulfillment of DSM IV-TR diagnostic criteria.

Results: Data on 244 children was analysed. Mean age was 35.8 months (SD 12.44, median 35.8, mode 30 months, range 13 to 96 months). Average age of diagnosis of the sample was 35.8 months. 48.2% presented at 25-36 months of age. The majority (77.4%) were male. Poor development of speech for age was the primary concern of parents in 82.3%. Hyperactivity, abnormal play behaviour, and social un-connectedness were reported as presenting problems only in 4.9%, 1.2% and 1.2% respectively. On assessment, the presence of a range of behavioural problems (14.6%), stereotyped behaviours (24.3%) and regression of speech (47.3%) was elicited. Co-occurring physical disorders were present in 18.8% with 10.6% having a seizure disorder. Atypical autism was diagnosed in 20.8%. There was no statistically significant association between age of presentation and type of presenting problem or associated disorders (p>0.05).

Conclusions: Poor development of speech was the primary concern of parents to seek medical help irrespective of age. The rate of recognizing social impairment and other main characteristics of autism was low.

Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health, 2013; 42(3): 139-143

(Key words: autism; children; diagnosis; presenting symptoms; speech/language delay)

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4038/sljch.v42i3.6017

How to Cite: Perera, H., Jeewandara, K.C., Guruge, C. and Seneviratne, S., 2013. Presenting symptoms of autism in Sri Lanka: analysis of a clinical cohort. Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health, 42(3), pp.139–143. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljch.v42i3.6017
Published on 06 Sep 2013.
Peer Reviewed

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