Autism cases on the rise in Australia

DAVID MARK: A new study indicates that the number of autism cases in Australia is increasing among younger children.

Researchers have found that 1.5 per cent of all 10 and 11 year olds have an autism spectrum condition, compared to 2.5 per cent of four and five year olds.

What's not clear is whether the condition is becoming more prevalent, or if it's simply being diagnosed more effectively.

Whatever the cause, experts say Australian schools need to prepare for an increase of autistic students.

Lucy Carter prepared this report.

LUCY CARTER: Dr Greg Rowell is a paediatrician with the Sydney Children's Hospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

GREG ROWELL: I would see a new case of autism in a preschooler under the age of three probably once every week or two. I would see every day several patients with autism that I've been managing long term.

LUCY CARTER: He says it's clear there are more autism cases in Australia than ever before. 

GREG ROWELL: I think the number diagnosed is definitely going up. That's pretty much beyond dispute. The number of cases occurring I think is probably going up and I think we are also getting better methods of diagnosing children earlier.

LUCY CARTER: Dr Rowell's experience echoes the results of a new study from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

Dr Emma Sciberras says her team examined the development of 10,000 children from a wide range of backgrounds.

EMMA SCIBERRAS: Half of the children were recruited into the study at birth and the other half were recruited into the study in preschool. 

We found that the prevalence of autism was 2.5 per cent in the younger cohort compared to 1.5 per cent in the preschool cohort. This provides some evidence that children born more recently had a higher prevalence of autism compared to those children born earlier.

LUCY CARTER: So does this mean that we can take at a rough estimate that 2.5 per cent of children or young children are being diagnosed with autism around Australia?

EMMA SCIBERRAS: That's what this project is suggesting. What we're going to do is continue to follow this group to see whether or not it does represent a shift towards the younger diagnosis or whether or not diagnosis will continue to rise.

LUCY CARTER: So researchers believe that autism is on the rise?

EMMA SCIBERRAS: It's not clear whether the difference in prevalence represents increase in diagnosis. It may indicate a shift towards younger age of diagnosis in young children.

LUCY CARTER: More than 80-per cent of all the children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder were boys, which Dr Greg Rowell says is typical of what he sees in his practice.

GREG ROWELL: No doubt males are four to five times as likely to have an autism spectrum diagnosis as females.

LUCY CARTER: Do we have any idea why?

GREG ROWELL: No, probably comes down to the genetic weaknesses of males.

LUCY CARTER: He says it's possible autism is being bred into the population.

GREG ROWELL: There seems to be quite a large population of children with autism. It comes back to the issue of why the incidence of autism is probably increasing, and it's probably that people who carry the genetic tendency are getting together with people with also similar genetic tendencies and that's called 'assortative mating.'

LUCY CARTER: Experts say the education system needs to be prepared for this growing number of students with autism.

Dr Sylvia Rodger from the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders says teachers and support staff will need specialist training.

SYLVIA RODGER: Children with autism are challenging for school teachers across Australia because of their many needs both in terms of their social and communication needs as well as, at times, their repetitive and stereotyped behaviours. 

And certainly one of the strong things that’s coming through is the need for further up-skilling of teachers and other school personnel - the health professionals, therapists, psychologists and people who work in schools. And certainly that's a great area of need as perceived by the teachers and by parents of students on the autism spectrum.

LUCY CARTER: Vicki Gibbs is a clinical psychologist and a manager at Autism Spectrum Australia.

VICKI GIBBS: Children with autism have a range of needs during those school aged years and we need to make sure that teachers are educated and that the resources are there. And then as they leave school, we have to be thinking about how we can support them from transition from probably a pretty supported environment, out into the adult world. 

We need to have programs to assist them in that transition. They're life-long learners, so it's not just as school finishes, 'well this is what they are and they're not going to progress any further.' 

We know that young adults with autism can really benefit from continued training, you know, in the five or so years after school to support them into, you know, being independent, to be able to hold down jobs, find jobs that they enjoy and to be able to just be part of the community generally.

So to engage socially and develop relationships. They really do want the same things as anybody else, they just need a little bit more help and guidance in getting there.

DAVID MARK: That's Vicki Gibbs from Autism Spectrum Australia. Lucy Carter was our reporter.

from http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2015/s4...


Autism diagnosis rising in Australia, but not clear if condition more prevalent

Murdoch Childrens Research Institute says more children are being confirmed with the condition, but are unsure whether trend is due to earlier diagnoses

 

 

 

An overwhelming majority of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder are boys. Photograph: Stephen Voss/AlamyAustralian Associated Press

More Australian children are being diagnosed with autism, but researchers don’t know if it’s because the condition is becoming more prevalent or if it is being diagnosed earlier.

The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute found the overwhelming majority of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were boys.

The development of 10,000 children was studied in two separate waves at two-yearly intervals. Half were recruited into the study at birth and the others in preschool.

When the children were 6-7 years and 10-11 years old respectively, parents were asked if their child had been diagnosed with an ASD and, if so, the age and severity of diagnosis.

Quality of life, behavioural strengths and difficulties, vocabulary abilities and intellectual development were also measured.

The prevalence of an ASD diagnosis before seven was 2.5% in the younger group compared with 1.5% in the older one.

All parents reported their children had poorer quality of life and more emotional and behavioural problems than their non-ASD peers.

The rate of ASD diagnosis for the younger group was higher than in previous Australian studies, lead researcher Professor Katrina Williams said.

“However, it is still not clear whether the difference in prevalence represents a shift to a younger age of diagnosis or a continued increase in diagnosis,” she said.

from http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/...


Autism diagnosis cases rise

 

MORE Australian children are being diagnosed with autism.

BUT researchers don't know if it's because the condition is becoming more prevalent or if autism is being diagnosed earlier.

The Murdoch Children's Research Institute also found the overwhelming majority of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are boys.

The development of 10,000 children was studied in two separate waves at two yearly intervals.

Half were recruited into the study at birth and the others in preschool.

When the children were 6-7 years and 10-11 years old respectively, parents were asked if their child had been diagnosed with an ASD and if so, the age and severity of diagnosis.

Quality of life, behavioural strengths and difficulties, vocabulary abilities and intellectual development were also measured.

The prevalence of an ASD diagnosis before seven was 2.5 per cent higher in the younger group compared with 1.5 per cent in the older one.

All parents reported their children had poorer quality of life and more emotional and behavioural problems than their non-ASD peers.

The prevalence of ASD of over two per cent for the younger group is higher than in previous Australian studies, said lead researcher Professor Katrina Williams.

"However, it is still not clear whether the difference in prevalence represents a shift to a younger age of diagnosis or a continued increase in diagnosis," she said.

from http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking...