Muhammad Mahajnah, Haitham Shalabi, Ruth Terkel-Dawer, Nathanel Zelnik
The worldwide dramatic increase in the incidence of ASD during the last two decades might be related to environmental factors, but is also a result of practice of more permissive clinical criteria as well as increased worldwide awareness of ASD. The recognition of ASD expanded the whole world, including the Middle Eastern Arab world, where autism was rarely reported in the past. In comparison to other Middle Eastern countries Israel has a higher prevalence of ASD and likewise the Western. A previous national survey that included Israeli patients diagnosed with ASD between the years 1972-2004, demonstrated that 98% of them were from Jewish ancestry. The disproportional low number of children from Arab communities in Israel is unclear, but may reflect lower awareness and cultural bias. The present study aims to compare the clinical characteristics of the children from Arab and Jewish communities in Israel and further assess genetic vs. cultural and social factors
This study characterized the clinical characteristics of 200 children with ASD who presented to the child developmental center. We compared the incidence and the medical co morbidity of autism between the two ethnics groups (Jewish and Arabs).
The medical and psychiatric co-occurrences are frequent among the autistic patients with incidences similar to the previous published studies. The prevalence of autism in the Arab population in Israel is similar to the Jewish population. The Arab patients presented with more severe autistic manifestations and higher incidence of mental retardation, familial members with autism, and consanguinity (P<0/05).
This study confirm that the prevalence of ASD in the Arab communities in Israel is similar to the Jewish communities. We also showed that severe cases of autism are more common among the Arab patients. This could be explained by genetic and cultural factors.