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Autism May Be Increasing in the United Kingdom

Researchers find that autistic spectrum disorders affect 1 percent of U.K. children

FRIDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) are more prevalent than previously thought in the United Kingdom and may affect 1 percent of the child population, according to a study published in the July 15 issue of The Lancet.

Gillian Baird, M.D., of Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital in London, U.K., and colleagues studied a cohort of 56,946 children aged 9 and 10 years, and screened 255 children with a clinical diagnosis of ASD and another 1,515 children from a special-needs resister who were considered to be possible undetected cases.

The researchers found that the prevalence of childhood autism and other ASDs was 38.9 per 10,000 and 77.2 per 10,000, respectively, for a total prevalence of 116.1 per 10,000 for all ASDs. If they had based their estimates on previously identified children with ASD, the total prevalence would have been 44 per 10,000.

"Whether the increase is due to better ascertainment, broadening diagnostic criteria, or increased incidence is unclear," the authors state. "Services in health, education and social care will need to recognize the needs of children with some form of ASD. This study emphasizes the need for agreed and shared tools and definitions in prevalence and incidence studies and for designs that are not reliant on local systems of case identification that may exhibit educational and other biases."

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