A team of Korean and American scientists conducted a study of 55,000 children in South Korea and found out that one in 38 children suffer a form of autism.

The study was a shock to the scientists. They found a rate that is much higher than what is found in the US, where one out of 110 have some form of autism. The US rate was found in a study of children in special education programs. The one conducted in South Korea was on children enrolled in regular schools.

Geraldine Dawson, chief scientific officer of Autism Speaks, said that “These findings suggest that ASD is under-diagnosed and under-reported and that rigorous screening and comprehensive population studies may be necessary to produce accurate ASD prevalence estimates.”

This means that more people could be suffering from ASD around the world and are left undiagnosed and untreated due to the current focus on children with special needs.

The study was conducted over 5 years in Goyang, a city near Seoul, and the results were published on Monday, May 9, 2011, in the American Journal of Psychiatry. It was funded by Autism Speaks. Young-Shin Kim of Yale Child Study Center led the study.

Autism is a developmental disorder which results in impaired social interaction and communication. There is currently no known cure and is also considered as a hereditary disorder.