This is a mathematical follow up to Anne Dachel’s report about autism in Northern Irish schools. Northern Ireland may not be completely representative of the United Kingdom but one valuable way in which it is not is that it systematically collects autism data for its children, whereas in the rest of the kingdom we increasingly just have unaccounted special needs chaos. However, the new data leaves us with a clear conclusion that the present autism rate is likely around 6%. The given figure is 4.5% which is based on 13,401 children: the other figure of those on the waiting list for diagnosis is 4,495, and it is clear where we get when the two are added together. We have no means of calculating closely the numbers for the other three nations (England, Scotland and Wales) but perhaps we ought to look at this as the ball-park figure.
How did we get here? In 1999 according to a carefully conducted survey for the geographical region ‘Great Britain’ the figure was just one twentieth at 0.3%. As many of us realised at the time there was already a dynamic increase: there were twice as many cases (0.4%) in primary school (4-11) as secondary (12-18) (0.2%) although secondary students had a longer time to gain a diagnosis and were monitored by the same services (p.33 Table 4.1, listed as ‘a less common disorder, Pervasive Development Disorder). By 2004, unsurprisingly, this amounted to about 1% in both divisions (p.35 Table 4.1, listed as “a less common disorder, Autistic Spectrum Disorder), and now here we are a further 17 years on and it is times 6 that figure.
Of course, all the time governments around the world did their best to adjust the data to make it appear as if nothing was happening but when the last British government Chief Medical Officer produced a successor survey to that of 2004 in November 2018 (now limited to England) with a figure of 1.2% it was so off-beam and so low powered it was laughable. Should anyone think this present 6% is illusory the new Northern Ireland census reports that two-thirds of diagnosed cases (66%) are at the highest level of educational need (Stage 5). We have a bureaucratic class that will do anything to cover its tracks, but it was bad luck for the people back in Whitehall that the very earnest Northern Ireland Assembly took autism sufficiently seriously to determine that there should be an annual school census.
Of course, among other things the Covid debacle is a very good camouflage for the meltdown in our schools. With autism at 6% surely some people would notice that there is something up.