Researchers have found no traces of a child ‘autism epidemic’, despite earlier reports that the developmental disorder is on the rise.
Nearly 1% of Britons older than 16 have autism, which means the adult rate is no higher than that seen among children in the UK, according to researchers from the University of Leicester.
“It was surprising to all of us. If this study is correct, it does put a big question mark over the autism epidemic,” said Dr Traolach Brugha, who worked on the study.
Concern that autism has been rising rapidly in children in recent decades has prompted both researchers and parents to search for the underlying reasons.
More and more research hints that some, if not all, of the increase in autism may be down to changes in how the disorder is diagnosed. Children who used to be classified as mentally retarded or just plain eccentric might now get an autism spectrum label instead.
“That simply means more people are coming forth and being recognised,” said Dr Traolach.