Data on autism are lacking for Libya. We conducted a hospital-based study in the Neurodevelopment Clinic of AI-Khadra Hospital in Tripoli to estimate the prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders in children attending the clinic. All children referred to the clinic between 2005 and 2009 with a diagnosis of speech and language disorders or behavioural difficulties were assessed. There were 38 508 children in total seen during 2005-09,180 of whom had a history of delayed speech and language and/or behavioural difficulties. Of the 180, 128 children were diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder: 99 had classical autism, giving the prevalence of about 4 in 1000. The male:female ratio for autistic spectrum disorders was 4:1 and for autism was 4.5:1. The most common age at presentation was 2-5 years (58%) and 56% presented 6-18 months after the onset of symptoms. Physicians should consider autism in the differential diagnosis of any child presenting with a speech and language disorder and/or behavioural difficulties.
The study population is biased, being taken from children referred to a hospital. On top of that, they limit themselves to children with a history of speech and language delay and/or behavior difficulties. A lot of kids could fall through the net on this, but it is still great to see the effort being made to get information on autism prevalence in Libya.
For those who may wonder, 128 out of 38,508 is a prevalence of 0.33%, or about 1 in 300.
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