Malaysia’s Autism Rate Steadily Rising Since 2010

In 2021, a total of 589 children aged below 18 were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In 2010, only 99 children were diagnosed with ASD.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 – The number of diagnoses for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Malaysia have risen steadily over the past decade, according to Ministry of Health (MOH) data.

The latest annual figure for 2021 showed a total of 589 children aged 18 and below being diagnosed with ASD, up five per cent from 562 children in 2020. 

In 2010, only 99 children under 18 were diagnosed with ASD, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told Lanang MP Alice Lau Kiong Yieng in a written parliamentary reply on March 23.

According to an MOH study in 2005, which used the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) screener for ASD, the prevalence of ASD in Malaysia is between one and two per 1,000 among children aged 18 months to three years. The study also found that male children are four times more likely to get ASD than female children.

Khairy did not specify the reason for the increase, though experts suggest that the rising rates of autism globally could be attributed to growing awareness of autism and changes to the condition’s diagnostic criteria.

Based on the data, Khairy said for the 10-year period from 2010 until 2021, about 19 per cent of children aged 18 and below were diagnosed with ASD compared to other types of learning disabilities.

There are six sub-categories of learning disabilities identified in the OKU Registration Form, namely global developmental delay (GDD), down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, intellectual, and specific learning disorders such as dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and dyslexia.

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