Many African children with autism are hidden away at home — sometimes tied up, almost always undiagnosed. Efforts to bring the condition into the open are only just beginning.
The biggest differences are who gets diagnosed and when. Children with autism in Africa tend to be diagnosed around age 8, about four years later, on average, than their American counterparts. More than half of African children with autism are also diagnosed with intellectual disability, compared with about one-third of American children on the spectrum. This suggests that only the most severely affected children are being picked up: Those who are diagnosed often speak few or no words and require substantial help with everyday tasks such as eating or going to the bathroom. By contrast, in the United States, the largest diagnostic increases over the past few decades have been on the milder end of the spectrum.
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