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

  • Simon Baron-Cohen (a1), Fiona J. Scott (a1), Carrie Allison (a1), Joanna Williams (a2), Patrick Bolton (a1), Fiona E. Matthews (a3) and Carol Brayne (a4)...
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.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Simon Baron–Cohen, University of Cambridge, Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, Douglas House, 18b Trumpington Road, Cambridge CB2 8AH, UK. Email: sb205@cam.ac.uk
Footnotes
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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.

Footnotes
References
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42 Lutchmaya, S, Baron-Cohen, S, Raggatt, P. Foetal testosterone and vocabulary size in 18- and 24-month-old infants. Infant Behav Dev 2002; 24: 418–24.
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44 Holliday-Willey, L. Pretending to be Normal. Living with Asperger's Syndrome. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999.
45 Kopp, S, Gillberg, C. Girls with social deficits and learning problems: autism, atypical Asperger syndrome or a variant of these conditions. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 1992; 1: 8999.
46 Wolff, S, McGuire, RJ. Schizoid personality in girls: a follow-up study – what are the links with Asperger's syndrome? J Child Psychol Psychiatry 1995; 36: 793817.
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Supplementary materials

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Supplementary materials

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Appendix 1

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Supplementary materials

Baron-Cohen et al. supplementary material
Appendix 1

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

  • Simon Baron-Cohen (a1), Fiona J. Scott (a1), Carrie Allison (a1), Joanna Williams (a2), Patrick Bolton (a1), Fiona E. Matthews (a3) and Carol Brayne (a4)...
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