Autism Numbers in Malaysia

The Star (Malaysia) notes that 1 in 625 Malaysian children is autistic, which would be a much lower prevalence rate than the 1 in 150 figure among children in the US. But some think otherwise:

If this were to be taken as a standard in Malaysia, there would be more than 3,000 new cases each year nationwide.

Said [National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom) chairman Teh Beng Choon]: “The question is how different are we in Malaysia from the US? That’s a pretty scary number. Everyone should be concerned.”

Dr Hasnah Toran, a senior lecturer in Early Intervention, Autism and Assessment from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Education Faculty, believed the situation in Malaysia is closer to that of the US as revealed by the recent research.

“There are various problems with the survey conducted in Malaysia (which said that one in 625 Malaysian children is autistic). For one, it was only conducted in Perak [one of the 13 states of Malaysia]. That represents only the tip of an iceberg in relation to the birth rate around the country. I’m not convinced (of the figures) because each time I walk into a school, I can see some students displaying autistic symptoms,” she said.

Suggests the difference that awareness and understanding of autism can make, wherever in the world you are.

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    • M

      Don’t let David Kirby hear about this. He’ll posit the existence of an airborne, transmitochondrial neuro-intestinal pandemic. (One the CDC has been secretly engineering for years). Insidious.

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      And fumes wafting somehow from China.

    • Joseph

      If these sorts of reports had clearer language, there might not be so much confusion. From the article:

      “A local survey conducted a few years ago revealed that one in every 625 Malaysian children is autistic.”

      That is the wrong way to report this. Unless it was an exhaustive survey where every child was examined, it can’t tell us how many children are autistic. It’s probably only telling us how many children are known to be diagnosed with autism. I cannot emphasize this distinction enough.

      But here’s something to ponder for the mercury hypothesis fans who tend to believe numbers from these sorts of surveys. In Asia, there’s a lot of fish consumption. As a matter of fact, kids in Malaysia probably have significantly higher levels of mercury in their blood than kids in the West.

    • David L.

      Considering that this 1-in-150 autism figure includes high-functioning individuals who probably wouldn’t be diagnosed in other countries, we can’t draw any conclusions from stated autism rates. Were you to meet me, you probably would not even suspect I had autism and most of that 1 in 150 are individuals like me.

    • Donna

      I completely agree with the idea of greater awareness being a big part of the issue, but Malaysia still might have a lower autism rate. Some researchers think that autism can cause problems in being born. Malaysia has a higher infant mortality rate than the US, about 17 deaths/1,000 live births in Malaysia vs. about 7 deaths/1,000 live births in the US. It is possible that some of the extra infant deaths in Malaysia are related to autism. Anyway, something to think about.

    • Aileen


      Nilai University College (Nilai UC) together with the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences UKM is organising a seminar featuring updates on high functioning autism and asperger’s syndrome.

      The seminar brings together a panel of local and international speakers who are renowned practitioners in this area. Together they will cover topics on the assessment and identification of the disorders, available professional treatment and the empowerment of parents and caregivers in a specially crafted half day seminar.

      Title : Making sense of another piece of the puzzle: Updates on High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome
      Date : 20th DECEMBER 2008 (Saturday)
      Time : 8.30am-1pm
      Venue : UKM KL Branch, Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz
      Fees : RM30nett per person (fee includes tea break)


      ASSESSMENT, Diagnosis and associated difficulties
      Clinical Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zasmani Shafiee
      Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist,
      Gleneagles Medical Centre Penang

      Cognitive Behaviour THERAPY
      Ms. Winnie Lau
      Clinical Psychologist, Minds and Hearts,
      Brisbane, Australia

      Parent EMPOWERMENT
      Dr. Alvin Ng Lai Oon
      Clinical Psychologist,
      Faculty of Allied Health Sciences,
      Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

      To register, please call Shoba at 06-8502338 or email

      Regards, Aileen Anthony (Manager, Corp Communications, Nilai UC)

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      thank you for posting this—-very best—–

    • Jo

      > In Asia, there’s a lot of fish consumption. As a matter of fact, kids in Malaysia probably have significantly higher levels of mercury in their blood than kids in the West.

      Not just from fish, but it’s in the water as well, because there is no control over what gets dumped into the rivers.

      I believe the autism rate is lower than that of the West, but learning disabilities is much, MUCH higher.

    • tarmizi

      Autism is a genetic disease and studies were made at US stated that genetically disorder may inherited from the parent? Does anyone have considered marriage among close relative is one of the contributing factor? Whereby in Islam it is totally prohibited and not just that, Chinese also is not allowed marriage among the same family name. The question is why this entire rule is existed more than 1000 years ago?
      Considering 1 over 150 at US and 1 over 650 in country,as well it is higher than AIDS, Breast cancer and diabetes. We need a survey or some info that can share with community as to reduce the autism in future. To find the root cause that contributes of increased above figure such as from lifestyle, history and so on.
      What are the scientific explanations?

      Thank you