**New 2015 report released from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety confirms that there has been a 67% increase in School Age Children in Northern Ireland diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder. Please see the Report attached at the bottom of the page.

statistics.jpgAutism is one of the most common developmental disabilities in Northern Ireland. Autism is lifelong and the exact cause is still being investigated. At present there is no known cure for Autism; however, there are a range of interventions that can help individuals reach their full potential.

  • Currently there are over 30,000 individuals affected by Autism within Northern Ireland.

 That means 30,000 families are living with the challenges of Autism.

  • More than 300 children in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with Autism every year.
  • Rates of children being diagnosed have quadrupled since 2002.
  • Autism affects four times more males than females.
  • Around 25% of individuals with Autism have an accompanying Learning Disability.

Autism is not a rare disability. The numbers of individuals with ASD now exceed the combined numbers of those with Down’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Yet investment in ASD support services for individuals and families remains significantly inadequate.

 Figure 1


Prevalence in Population

Northern Ireland No's of Individuals with ASD

2002 71:10,000 8,000
2007 1:100* 20,000
2007 1:76** 30,000

* Figures from “Prevalence of disorders of the autism spectrum…” Prof. G. Baird, The Lancet, July 2006.

** Figures supplied by BELB (Belfast Education & Library Board) (2007). They concur with unpublished 2007 report by Cambridge Autism Research Centre.

2015 Update: No more accurate figures exist presently.

The Autism Act (NI) 2011 has established a review of ASD data collection systems. This will produce NI data for the first time re prevalence figures for future planning.

Figure 2


School Age Children with ASD

2002 900
2007 3000*
2010 4000**





* Figures supplied by Department of Education 2006

** Figures supplied by Department of Education 2009

*** Figures from NI School Census 2011/12

****Figures supplied by Department of Health and Social Care 2015 (see report at bottom of the page)

The facts and figures presented in Figure 1 and Figure 2 are carried out by external organisations and they are the most recent statistics released.

Q. Why is the rate of increase so dramatic?

A. Many reasons are given for this. International increases are also dramatic and the answer may lie somewhere within the following:

1) Environmental & genetic factors e.g. diet, heredity, pre-disposition within society.

In other words, have our evolving lifestyles introduced a hazard that is at the root of the triggering of Autism for a section of our population (Ref Uta Frith’s “Explaining the Enigma”)?

2) Better identification due to greater awareness, expertise and resourced services.

This may be a significant factor. However DHSSPS (NI) funding to develop ASD Assessment and Diagnostic services was first delivered in 2004 and a service network was still very much in a developmental stage in 2007. Due to obvious under funding of diagnostic services it is therefore unlikely that this is a total explanation of the exceptional rate of increase.

Q. How many children receive a diagnosis of ASD annually?

A. It is estimated that in Northern Ireland in excess of 300 children are born every year who later will receive a diagnosis of ASD.

'The Prevelance of Autism in School Aged Children' report by the Department of Health and Social Care (attached to the bottom of the page) highlights the latest statistics in school-aged children receiving a diagnosis. The statistics show an increasing number of diagnosis being made across Northern Ireland with DHSSPS figures in April 2015 stating that 1,449 children were waiting for assessment for Autism, of this 1,449 around 60/70% will be diagnosed with Autism.

Over the past 5 years the rate of Autism has increased by 67% in school aged children.

1 in 54 pupils attending school have a diagnosis of ASD. For 2014/15 this means that over 6,000 pupils will have a diagnosis of ASD.

Autism NI's Figures

Advice Line Calls

Autism NI had recorded the amount of advice line calls they receive every year from 2010. Due to the increase in diagnosis rates and the need for more services, Autism NI received over 2,000 calls in 2014, which is a 130% increase from 2010. The highest percentage of these calls are issues around education. Please see the latest figures below.

Autism NI Advice Line Figures.jpg

How long did the diagnosis process take?

In 2015 a recent survey from Autism NI asked parents 'How long did the diagnosis process take'?

The selection was regoinal and there were 97 responses. The results show that almost 70% of parents are waiting a year or more for a diagnosis. Please see the latest figures below.

How long did the diagnosis process take 2015 figures.jpg