According to the Autism Society of Pakistan, there is no reliable data to estimate the occurrence of autism in Pakistan, but some estimates put them at 350,000 children with autism in Pakistan. They are not easily identifiable as it is not a physical disease which can be diagnosed by tests easily. The actual numbers are probably higher in Pakistan as many children remain undiagnosed due to lack of education, awareness, or the stigma attached to diagnosis. Consequently, these children and teenagers have no access to interventions which could be key for improving their lives and the lives of people who are supporting them.
Morton et al. noted that Pakistani children had a slightly increased prevalence of autism (2.57/1,000) and cerebral palsy, along with higher rates of severe learning difficulties, as well as hearing and vision problems (Morton et al. 2002).
Several possible causes like inter family marriages, poor socioeconomic status, high rates of perinatal complications, and poor maternal and infant health services may contribute towards this much higher prevalence of learning disabilities.
(Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2019.)