Care services Minister Ivan Lewis today announced £500,000 for Government research into the numbers of adults with autism and their specific transitions needs. This prevalence study will inform the first ever Government strategy on adults with autism and Asperger's syndrome, due to be published next year.
The number of children with autism is as high as 1 in 100 (according to Prof. Baird's 2006 study) and this prevalence study will give us a more accurate picture of how many adults have the condition. Part of the new research will focus on the period of transition to adult life and will inform service planning for adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). This will be led by Prof. Baird and it will examine the lessons and challenges in the transition process and focus on areas such as mental health, social care, housing and further education needs.
Ivan Lewis said:
"Adults with autism and Asperger's syndrome are too often abandoned by services with their families left to struggle alone. Equally, people are frequently missaprorpriately referred to either mental health or learning disability services
"This study will inform the development of a national strategy designed to ensure that adults with autism and Asperger's syndrome are supported to have full lives."
"We still don't know enough about autism, but we do know that left unsupported, it can have a devastating impact on those who have the condition and their families. One of the key gaps in our knowledge is simple - we don't know how many people have the condition in any given area. That is why I am ordering a study to address this. "
The prevalence study will interrogate existing data to record the number of adults with Asperger's syndrome and high functioning autism. There will also be an additional part to the study on the number of people with autism who have more complex needs and learning disabilities. The research will provide good epidemiological information in terms of prevalence and the characteristics and problems of this group. It will be taken forward by Prof. Brugha at the University of Leicester, in conjunction with a team of research experts including Research Autism and Prof Baron-Cohen of the Autism Research Centre, and will report in 2009.
This work, including research into transitions, is being commissioned and funded jointly with the Department for Children, Schools and Families. An autism expert will be appointed within the Department of Health to take both studies forward.
The National Autistic Society recently called for a prevalence study into the numbers of adults with the condition, as their recent survey found that 63% of adults with autism feel they don't get enough support. This study will address this problem by informing service providers who can find it hard to plan to meet the needs of adults when they do not have access to good information on the number of people in their area and their needs.
Mark Lever, chief executive of The National Autistic Society said;
"We warmly welcome today's announcement from the Department of Health. Through our I Exist report, adults with autism told us they feel isolated and ignored, we are therefore delighted that the government has listened and is taking action . The Government has committed to establishing an autism specialist post and to undertake research into the number of adults with autism. We hope this will mark a turning point in the way that the needs of people with autism are recognised and met."