related disorders in Britain may be twice as widespread as
previously thought, according to research published on
The study showed that 116 in every
10,000 children suffer from autism or autism spectrum
disorders (ASD). The previous estimate was 44 per
10,000. "Prevalence of autism and related ASD is
substantially higher than previously recognised," said
Professor Gillian Baird, of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital
in London. "Whether the increase is due to better
ascertainment, broadening diagnostic criteria, or
increased incidence is unclear," she added.
The cause of autism, which usually develops before the age
of 30 months, is unknown. In some cases it is apparent
from birth. Children with the condition become withdrawn,
self-absorbed, are often unable to communicate and do not
follow normal patterns of development.
The condition is more prevalent among boys than girls.
ASDs are developmental disorders characterised by
different degrees of impairment in communication and
social skills and repetitive patterns of behaviour.
The researchers calculated the new estimates by looking at
cases of autism and ASDs in children
aged nine and 10 in south London in 2001. They
studied children with all forms of ASD and children with
special educational needs.
The study published in The Lancet medical journal revealed
39 children per 10,000 had autism and 77 per 10,000 had
"Services in health, education and social care will need
to recognise the needs of children with some form of ASD,
who constitute one percent of the child population," Baird
said in the study.