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Should Grinker and Co's Flawed South Korean Autism Study be Taken Seriously?

Posted May 10 2011 1:44am

The newly reported autism study from South Korea with its "shocking" 1 in 38 autism rates figure doesn't make much sense. As reported in the Boston Globe
"Roy Richard Grinker, a cultural anthropologist at George Washington University who worked on the study, said his own child with autism would probably function very well in such a system.

"Many kids with autism who are doing well can adapt to that highly structured situation," he said.

So, what does this finding mean for the United States?

Not necessarily much, according to several researchers who were not involved in the study. They praised the study generally, but pointed out flaws and assumptions that raise questions about whether there really are so many kids with autism in South Korea -- and by extension, in the United States.

Dr. Isaac S. Kohane, a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, said he thinks the researchers may have taken their estimations too far by assuming that the rate of autism was the same among the nearly 700 families who declined followup assessments for their children, as among the ones who agreed. Wouldn’t a parent worried about a child be more likely to participate than one with no concerns? Without this assumption, Kohane says the researchers would have found roughly the same 1 in 100 prevalence we see in the United States.

Also, the definition of "autism" is so squishy today that it’s very hard to draw the line between autistic and non-autistic, he and other researchers said."

I am the father of a low functioning son with Autistic Disorder and I am not a fan of Roy Richard Grinker's involvement in defining autism and autism prevalence estimates. Grinker is the father of a high functioning child with Asperger's who favors the New Autism Spectrum Disorder definitions of the DSM-5.

I don't know why an anthropologist with strong biases was involved in an autism prevalence study in South Korea. I am not surprised though if a Grinker involved study found higher rates of autism ... particularly if the autistic persons found to have been missed were very high functioning.

Regardless, Dr. Kohane a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School has pointed out some serious flaws and assumptions involved in the study. Hopefully other serious professionals will examine the study and consider Dr. Kohane's comments before promoting the 1 in 38 study from Grinker and Co.

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