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Prevalence of autism-spectrum conditions: UK school-based population study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Simon Baron-Cohen
Affiliation:
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge University
Fiona J. Scott
Affiliation:
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge University
Carrie Allison
Affiliation:
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge University
Joanna Williams
Affiliation:
Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge University
Patrick Bolton
Affiliation:
Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge University
Fiona E. Matthews
Affiliation:
Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge University
Carol Brayne
Affiliation:
Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge University, UK
Corresponding
E-mail address:
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Abstract

Background

Recent reports estimate the prevalence of autism-spectrum conditions in the UK to be 1%.

Aims

To use different methods to estimate the prevalence of autism-spectrum conditions, including previously undiagnosed cases, in Cambridgeshire.

Method

We carried out a survey of autism-spectrum conditions using the Special Educational Needs (SEN) register. A diagnosis survey was distributed to participating schools to be handed out to parents of all children aged 5–9 years. The mainstream primary school population was screened for unknown cases.

Results

The prevalence estimates generated from the SEN register and diagnosis survey were 94 per 10 000 and 99 per 10 000 respectively. A total of 11 children received a research diagnosis of an autism-spectrum condition following screening and assessment. The ratio of known:unknown cases is about 3:2 (following statistical weighting procedures). Taken together, we estimate the prevalence to be 157 per 10 000, including previously undiagnosed cases.

Conclusions

This study has implications for planning diagnostic, social and health services.

Type
Papers
Copyright
Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2009 

Footnotes

These authors contributed equally to the work.

This study was funded by the Shirley Foundation. S.B-C., F.J.M. and J.W. were funded by the Medical Research Council during the period of this work. P.B. was supported by the UK NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Declaration of interest

F.J.S acted as an expert witness for the diagnosis of autism-spectrum conditions and for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine litigation, but not for children in the population covered by this study.

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