Publication of 'The Prevalence of Autism (including Aspergers Syndrome) in School Age Children in Northern Ireland 2015’

Date published: 30 July 2015

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has today published ‘The Prevalence of Autism (including Aspergers Syndrome) in School age Children in Northern Ireland 2015’.

The Prevalence of Autism (including Aspergers Syndrome) in School Age Children in Northern Ireland

Key Facts and Figures:

  • The figures provided by the Northern Ireland School Census have shown that the estimated prevalence of autism has increased by 0.9 percentage points across all Health and Social Care Trusts between 2009/10 and 2014/15, from 1.3% of the compulsory school age population to 2.2%.
  • There is a significant difference in the estimated prevalence rates of ASD between the genders, with males almost five times more likely to be identified with ASD than females. However the analysis has indicated that the female ASD population (of compulsory school age) in recent years has increased at a slightly higher rate than the male population.
  • The urban Northern Ireland population has a statistically significant higher prevalence rate than the rural population. This result was not fully replicated at HSC Trust level, with only the Southern Trust consistently showing year on year significance between location and the number of children identified with ASD.
  • Those children in the least and most deprived areas appear to have the highest prevalence rate of ASD, with those children in MDM deciles closer to the middle of the scale having lower rates of ASD prevalence. There are exceptions to this (Decile 4) which indicates this area may require further study. As many of the most and least deprived MDM deciles are located in urban areas there is likely some cross cutting relationship with the results seen for ASD prevalence and the urban rural spilt (see appendix 2).
  • Looking at prevalence across school years over time we can see that the estimated prevalence of ASD has increased across all school years, between 2009/10 and 2014/15, with the greatest increases in the numbers of children identified with ASD occurring in the youngest (5 – 8 year olds) and oldest (13 – 16 year olds) groups of children.
  • The data shows that the majority of children with ASD have been assessed to be at Stage 5 of the Special Educational Needs assessment process in each year. The 6 year trend analysis indicates that there is a small but constant decrease in the relative percentage of identified children at Stage 5 during the school census snapshot.

Notes to editors: 

1. This information was collated by Community Information Branch within the DHSSPS.

2. Statistics detailed within the publication were sourced from the Department of Education and include the number of school aged children identified with Autism (including Aspergers) by HSC Trust area, Urban/Rural, Multiple deprivation Measure, gender, school year and special educational needs assessment. Trend analyses for 6 years are presented regionally and by HSC Trusts.

3. Media queries to DHSSPS Press Office on 02890 520074, or out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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