New statistics state Northern Ireland has highest autism prevalence rates in the UK

  • 10-05-2019

The latest statistics from the Department of Health shows that one in thirty school age children are now being diagnosed with autism in Northern Ireland.  The figures extracted from the Northern Ireland School Census shows 9,768 school aged children have autism, with children living in urban areas 1½ times more likely to have bene diagnosed with autism.

Autism NI CEO Kerry Boyd said: “These latest figures although alarming, are not unexpected. A report was commissioned by the NI Department of Education which warned of this ‘autism wave’ of diagnosis back in 2002 and this was the motivation for Autism NI’s autism awareness lobby at Stormont which led to the establishment of the Autism Act (NI) in 2011. Therefore, it is extremely frustrating that because the NI Assembly is not functioning, autism is not getting the right level of attention that is so badly needed.”

The pressure on autism services in Northern Ireland is now at breaking point. In some trust areas parents are still waiting up to 18 months on an assessment and support services are few and far between. Therefore, it is often left to us to fill this void but due to the level of demand on Autism NI’s services, we are already stretched to full capacity. With the latest increase in diagnosis levels, Autism NI’s Family Support Service has seen a 40% increase in demand for advice and post diagnosis support.

Every child with autism should be diagnosed as early as possible and receive a tailored early intervention package to ensure the best outcomes for that child. The school environment should also be fit for purpose and as the vast majority of children with autism are within mainstream schools, I would support the introduction of mandatory autism training for all classroom assistants and teachers. Therefore, we are calling for an urgent review on autism services in Northern Ireland with health and education working closely together to address this crisis.

Autism NI supports individuals and their families, and campaigns to raise awareness of Autism within the wider society. A local charity, it provides life-changing services for the 30,000 individuals living with Autism throughout Northern Ireland.

Click here to view The Prevalance of Autism (inlcuding Asperger Syndrome) in School Age Children  in Northern Ireland 2019 online

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