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A study reflecting the demographics and comorbidities of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at initial presentation to the KwaZulu-Natal Children’s Hospital

S Pillai, M Makhetha, C Aldous

Abstract


Background. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) retards the holistic development of a child owing to both inherent and comorbid medical pathology. Despite the profound effect of ASD on a child’s life, information regarding this neurodevelopmental disorder is limited. In South Africa (SA), there is a dearth of knowledge regarding ASD. In addition, the resources available to accommodate the needs of autistic children are largely insufficient in quantity and quality. 

Objectives. To determine demographics and comorbidities in autistic children at the KwaZulu-Natal Children’s Hospital (KZNCH). 

Methods. This study was a retrospective chart review conducted at the neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric clinics at the KZNCH in Durban, SA. Medical records of autistic children at their initial presentation to KZNCH from 1 January 2017 - 31 December 2017 were obtained and analysed. 

Results. The study sample comprised 114 study participants. Most participants (87%) presented above 36 months of age to the KZNCH. A 24-month delay was noted between onset of symptoms suggestive of ASD and presentation to a healthcare facility or KZNCH. Almost 50% of participants were awaiting placement in a special school. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was the most common comorbidity, affecting 43% of participants. 

Conclusion. The study illustrated the demographic profiles and comorbidities of autistic children presenting to the KZNCH. However, the medical and social shortcomings in KZN elucidated in this study reinforce the necessity for further research to be conducted and resources to be invested to address the plight of children with ASD.


Authors' affiliations

S Pillai, Department of Clinical Medicine, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

M Makhetha, Department of Clinical Medicine, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

C Aldous, Department of Clinical Medicine, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Cite this article

South African Journal of Child Health 2021;15(3):125-129. DOI:10.7196/SAJCH.2021.v15i3.01752

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-10-14
Date published: 2021-10-14

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