Autism levels in Britain soar with
one in 58 children now affected
July 8, 2007
number of children in Britain with autism is higher than previously
An unpublished study, carried out
by researchers at Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre,
found that one in 58 children may have some form of the condition,
according to The Observer.
The figures mean that as many as
210,000 children under 16 across the country could have autism or a
related autistic spectrum disorder, the paper said.
This is well above the existing
estimate of one in 100, which has been widely accepted by experts.
We couldn't get a proper education
for our autistic son
Prior to the 1990s, experts
estimated the rate of autism in Britain to be around four or five
cases per 10,000 people.
Since then there have been
indications that the true prevalence is much higher.
But whether this is due to a
genuine increase in numbers of cases, or merely the result of
labelling more children as autistic, is not known.
Autism is an umbrella term for a
range of developmental disorders that impair a person's ability to
interact socially and communicate.
They cover a "spectrum" ranging
from severe cases of "classic" autism, through a variety of
"pervasive developmental disorders", to much milder Asperger's
Seven researchers, most of them
from the university's Autism Research Centre, studied children at
local primary schools.
According to the Observer, two of
the academics privately believe that the figure may be linked to the
use of the controversial MMR vaccine which has been blamed by some
experts for children developing the condition.
However five members of the
research team reject that view, including team leader Professor
Prof Baron-Cohen told the paper he
believed genetics, better recognition of the condition,
environmental factors and children's exposure to hormones in the
womb were more likely to be the cause.
The team studied the incidence of
autism and autistic spectrum disorders among around 12,000 primary
schoolchildren in Cambridgeshire between 2001 and 2004.