Available evidence from the literature suggests that the prevalence of autistic disorder may be on the rise world wide, but no prevalence studies have been carried out till date in the Arabian Gulf region. A representative random sample of 694 three-year-old United Arab Emirates national children was evaluated in a two-stage study in the community. In the first stage, using Autism Screening Questionnaire, 58 per 10 000 children were noted to have autistic features. In the second stage using clinical interview, the weighted prevalence was estimated to be 29 per 10 000 for a DSM-IV diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). However, none of these children had been diagnosed prior to the study. Presence of autistic features was associated with male gender, presence of behavioural problems and a family history of developmental delay. The rate of PDD observed in the UAE is comparable with that reported from western countries. However, the lack of recognition of these disorders suggests the need for a comprehensive screening program, as early diagnosis can open the door for early intervention which in turn may improve the prognosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas