On average, 17 out of 10,000 children in Bangladesh have some form of autism
The number of autistic children is higher in affluent families, and such cases are found more in cities than in villages, in Bangladesh, said specialists.
According to the Institute of Paediatric Neurodisorder and Autism (Ipna) in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), on average, 17 out of 10,000 children in Bangladesh have some form of autism. The rate of autistic children in affluent families is almost double the rate among lower income families.
"The latest Ipna survey found that 15 out of 10,000 children from poor families have some form of autism, while 33 out of 10,000 children from rich families have been diagnosed with similar problems," said Dr Gopen Kumar Kundu, assistant professor at BSMMU and Ipna deputy director.
Ipna conducted the survey in 2017 on children – aged between 16 to 30 months – in 85 areas of 30 districts in eight divisions.
At a training session at Ipna on Saturday, Dr Gopen said, "Children with autism are diagnosed more in urban and rich families because of a higher level of awareness and greater access to screening facilities."
"There is no single major cause of autism, but genetic reasons, environmental pollution, mother's illness during pregnancy, and the higher age of parents can cause such problems," he added.
Autism is a disorder of brain development, which manifests itself in children aged between 12 to 18 months. It can be identified when children are between two to three years old.
Dr Gopen said, "Many children develop normally till they are two years old, but after that they lose their normal capacity to grow and come down with some form of autism. That is why you should not give cell phones to children under two years old."
"Children aged between two to three can have mobile phones for one to two hours per day," he added.
Ipna Training Coordinator Dr Muzharul Mannan said, "The NDD Trust Act 2013 was passed to ensure the safety of autistic children. Regardless of that, everybody in society should sympathise with autistic children."