I have been looking at Scotland’s 2017 special educational needs data, published last month amid zero publicity – these days we do not even have to “bury the bad news”. It just gets published on a government website somewhere and almost no one notices...except me and Anne Dachel. On 26 March 2018 I wrote to the British Medical Journal (and they published):
The (British) government must face up to the autism pandemic, and so must the RCPCH
It is perturbing not to get a response from Prof Viner and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, after my Rapid Response last week . Since I wrote I have tracked down the figures for Scottish schools for 2017 (the disability numbers were published earlier this month, though not reported in the media). The number of children with an autism diagnosis in Scottish schools rose by 11.5% in one year. Between September 2016 and 2017 one year in the fifteen year rolling cohort departed, another arrived, and the total number of children with diagnosed autism increased by 1,550: the incidence of autism in Scottish schools went up from 1 child in 51 (684,415/13,423) to 1 child in 46 (688, 959/14,973) [1,2]. But the rate among younger children will be far higher. In 2005 the Department of Health gave a figure of 1 child in 100 .
At what point does this catastrophic phenomenon even get to be acknowledged? People talk about pandemics of infectious disease, but what do they think this is?
 John Stone, 'NHS must prioritise health of children and young people -what about autism?', 19 March 2018 http://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1116/rr
 Tables 1.1 and 1.8 http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/dspupcensus
Naturally, no one answered. A friend posed me the question whether there could be substitution involved? Well it does not look like this is the main explanation. Here is the data (table 1.5) for pupils with additional support needs comparing 2017 with 2007:
2007 Primary School 4.4% (16, 478)
2017 Primary School 23.5% (94,125)
2007 Secondary 4.3% (13, 355)
2017 Secondary 29.3% (82,712)
Averaged out this is a present rate of 26.6% for pupils with additional support needs: a rise of 534% for primary education, and 681% for secondary education in ten years. Since this is a table presumably the criteria should be consistent. And though the autism figures are catastrophic and getting worse they exist in a new sea of other additional support needs. Also, some terrible fate is overwhelming pupils in secondary education.
When I wrote about the last set of figures in Scotland my articles were taken off Google News, probably after the intervention of Scottish government, or some pharmaceutical PR agency in London like Science Media Centre or Sense About Science. And very soon after Age of Autism was taken off Google News altogether. But the bottom line is that this is the real news: this is the Scottish government’s own data – nothing to do with me – and they cower in silence.
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
John Stone is UK and European editor of Age of Autism