Mentally handicapped children, mostly in institutions, were screened in 5 countries in Africa in order to explore the usefulness of Western criteria for the recognition of childhood autism in developing countries. Approximately 1,300 children were seen, of whom 30 had some autistic-like behavior. Nine were autistic according to Western criteria. Autistic behavior was found in speaking and nonspeaking children of all grades; in sex ratio, occurrence of epilepsy, and social background the African group was broadly comparable to Western groups. Behavioral comparison with a British sample suggests some prominent features of the syndrome are very uncommon in Africa. Implications for recognition and classification are discussed. (Lotter, V. (1978). Childhood autism in Africa. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 19(3), 231-44.)
The above is an old study, but it begs questions regarding increases in autism across the world. Which portions of the world are seeing the kinds of increases we’re seeing in the United States? Some sections of West Africa have far higher percentages of left handed children. Do those regions of higher or lower percentages of autism? Because diagnosis protocols differ, are there different rates of autism in African cities vs. African rural areas?