Over a four day period in May 2001 we conducted a phone survey of all Infant, Primary and Junior schools in the North Somerset area.
The purpose of the survey was to introduce the schools to ourselves and our web site being launched on 14th May 2001.
During the course of each conservation we recorded the information volunteered to us about the number of children in the school on the Autistic spectrum. In cases where this information was not volunteered we asked them if they would tell us how many children they had with ASD. These figures were also recorded.
In all cases we only recorded information given to us by either the Head teacher or the schools Senco.
In the case of schools having children which they believed to be on the spectrum but not as yet statemented, these children were not counted in the final figures.
The results are as follows
Number of schools approached, 68
Number of schools responded, 51
Number of schools unable to contact or failed to reply, 16
Number of schools who refused to comment, 1
The total number of pupils in all schools that responded was 9,708
The total number of pupils given as Autistic Spectrum Disorder was 84
This gives a figure of 1 in every 115 pupils in North Somerset between the ages of 5-11
This is over 15 times the national average.*
A large number of schools expressed concern about the number of pupils they had who showed symptoms or traits of Autistic spectrum disorder. Although these children were not counted into the above figures, should they come into the spectrum as a result of greater awareness then I would expect the figures to rise further.
Note 2 * The figure of 5 in 10,000 is a commonly used benchmark for autism prevalence. It has been used recently by the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University as a basis for their own studies and by professor Martin Knapp of the Institute of Psychiatry to assess the economic cost of Autism nationally. Both of these references were published in the Sunday Telegraph on Sunday 11th February 2001.
We have not at this stage conducted any enquiries about Pre-school children. The national consensus is that prevalence among this group is growing at an alarming rate.