Childhood autism spectrum disorder: insights from a tertiary hospital cohort in Kenya

Samia P, Kanana M, King J, Donald KA, Newton CR, Denckla C
Afr J Health Sci. 2020;33

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INTRODUCTION: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by impairments in behavior, social communication, and interaction. There is little data on ASD from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) describing clinical characteristics in large cohorts of patients. Preliminary studies report a high male sex ratio, excess of nonverbal cases, possible infectious etiologies, and comorbidities e.g. epilepsy. OBJECTIVE: To describe the clinical characteristics of children diagnosed with ASD in an African context. METHODS: A retrospective medical chart review identified 116 children diagnosed with ASD according to DSM-5 criteria at a pediatric neurology clinic in Nairobi, Kenya. RESULTS: The male to female ratio was 4.3:1. The median age at presentation was 3 years with speech delay as the most common reason for presentation. Expressive language delay was observed in 90% of the population. Sixty percent who obtained imaging had normal MRI brain findings. Only 44% and 34% of children had access to speech therapy and occupational therapy respectively. Epilepsy and ADHD were the most prevalent comorbidities. CONCLUSION: An early median age at presentation and preponderance of male gender is observed. Access to speech therapy and other interventions was low. A prospective study would help determine outcomes for similar children following appropriate interventions.