The latest statistics from the Department of Health shows that one in twenty-four school aged children are now being diagnosed with autism in Northern Ireland. This is a prevalence increase of 82% over the past five years. These figures which are extracted from the Northern Ireland School Census, shows 12,544 school aged children have autism, with children living in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland 37% more likely to be 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. Since then we have seen an increase in awareness and understanding of autism, which is being demonstrated within these latest statistics. For this reason, Autism NI has been lobbying relentlessly over the past ten years on the urgent need for adequate autism services and a consistent, uniformed approach across all Health Trusts and Education.
The pressure on autism services in Northern Ireland is now at breaking point. 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. It is therefore left to the voluntary sector to fill this ‘void’ but due to the level of demand on Autism NI’s services and lack of funding available, we are stretched to full capacity with very little statutory funding. Therefore, we are calling for an urgent review on autism services to address this crisis and for a ring fenced budget to be established to ensure autism supports and interventions are available for each and every autism family throughout Northern Ireland “
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 autism community throughout Northern Ireland.
To find out more or for further information please call 02890401729 (Option 3) or visit www.autismni.org.