The Department of Health has today published ‘The Prevalence of Autism (including Aspergers Syndrome) in school age children in Northern Ireland 2018’. These figures have been extracted from the Northern Ireland School Census collected by the Department of Education.

The key facts and figures have revealed:

  • The estimated prevalence of autism within the school aged population in Northern Ireland has increased by 1.7 percentage points from 1.2 per cent in 2008/09 to 2.9 per cent in 2017/18.
  • There is a significant difference in the estimated prevalence rates of autism between the genders, with males almost four times more likely to be identified with autism than females, which is in line with international findings.
  • The Northern Ireland urban population has a statistically significant higher prevalence rate than the rural population.
  • Using the NI Multiple Deprivation Measure (MDM) ranking, from 2008/09 to 2013/14, the rate of autism has increased in all the MDM deciles. However, the increase has been more prominent in the most deprived MDM decile. In 2017/18, the rate of autism in the most deprived MDM decile was 31 per cent higher than the Northern Ireland average.
  • The estimated prevalence of autism has increased across all school years between 2009/10 and 2017/18. The greatest increase in the number of children identified with autism occurred in those in Year 9 (aged 13 years).
  • In 2009/10, 74 per cent of children identified as having autism were classified at Stage 5 of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Assessment. In 2017/18 the percentage of children identified as having autism classified at Stage 5 of the SEN Assessment had fallen to 60 per cent.
Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan


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