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Rising Autism Diagnosis Rates: Causes, Challenges, and the Importance of Support

Recent Study shines light on the rise of Autism diagnoses

Recent Study shines light on the rise of Autism diagnoses

Understanding the Increase

There has been a recent surge in the prevalence of autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), leaving many wondering about the causes behind these alarming statistics. Well, the answer is rather simple: the advancement in the field of diagnostics has opened up possibilities for doctors and patients to identify these conditions, which were previously undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed. According to a recent study, there has been an incredible 787% rise in autism diagnoses between 1998 and 2018.

Researchers of this study focused on the rates of autism recorded in the General Practitioner (GP) records in England, analyzing data from over nine million GP patients. The study, published in the renowned Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, points towards increased awareness, reporting, and better autism diagnostic practices as the reasons for this sudden surge.

The Challenge of Long Waits

Recent statistics from the National Health Service (NHS) reveal that children in the UK are currently experiencing lengthy waits of at least 10 months for an autism referral. While some believe this is an understatement, it certainly doesn’t help the dire situation at hand. Navigating the vast complexities of limited resources, acronyms, and inequality in medical services becomes the ultimate challenge for these children and their families.

The pursuit of an Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP), which outlines the specific requirements necessary for children with additional learning needs, adds to the uphill battle. For instance, Eddie, a child whose case had to go through an appeals process to be accepted, requires a special font size and colored background for reading due to visual impairment. Despite having an average IQ, he struggles with concentration in noisy settings, alongside displaying repetitive behavior.

Understanding Autism

The concept of autism is by no means a recent one. As far back as 1911, renowned German psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler, used the term to refer to the most severe cases of schizophrenia. In fact, the history of autism is intertwined with schizophrenia, since what is now identified as autism, was once referred to as “childhood schizophrenia”. However, it is crucial to highlight the distinction between the two. Autism is a neurological condition, whereas schizophrenia is classified as a mental illness.

As a social consequence, the stigma and lack of understanding surrounding autism engender a hostile environment for individuals like Eddie in mainstream settings. Shockingly, children in his previous school would cruelly refer to him with derogatory terms such as “brain damaged” or “autistic idiot”. As a result, it is evident that the claim of inclusivity within such environments remains far from true. These instances urge the importance of cultivating a basic understanding and awareness of autism and other neurodiverse conditions, as the right support can genuinely be life-changing.

Eddie’s journey typifies these challenges. After spending almost a year on a reduced timetable at a mainstream primary school, which failed to adequately cater to his needs, a rigorous pursuit led to his admission to a specialist school. Since joining this new school in June of last year, Eddie’s progress has been remarkable. Today, he appears as a different child – engaged, happy, talkative, and at ease. In this space, he is embraced for who he is, and as any parent would hope, he is able to access the right to education.

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