The Department of Health in Northern Ireland recently published the latest statistics on prevalence of autism in children.
The report titled, 'The Prevalence of Autism (including Aspergers Syndrome) in School age Children in Northern Ireland 2019' was prepared using the data derived from the Northern Ireland School Census by the Department of Education.
Key findings of the report include:
- The estimated prevalence of autism in school-aged children in Northern Ireland witnessed a rise of 2.1 percentage points from 1.2 per cent in 2008-2009 to 3.3 per cent in 2018-2019.
- A substantial variation was seen in the estimated prevalence rates across genders. Males have a 4-fold higher likelihood of being identified with autism compared with females.
- The autism prevalence rates were significantly higher in the urban population of Northern Ireland compared with its rural population. The increase in prevalence rates was highest in the most deprived regions.
- A rise in the estimated prevalence of autism was seen across all school years between 2009-2010 and 2018-2019 and was most prominent for school year 9 (aged 13 years).
- In 2018-2019, the proportion of children identified as having autism classified at Stage 5 of the Special Educational Needs was 58 per cent compared with 74 per cent in 2009-2010.