Research published in the British Medical Journal has found that the number of new cases of autism diagnosis in the UK has levelled off.
The study said that there had been a surge in reported cases of autism in the 1990s but the rise had not continued. This is believed to be due to increased awareness and diagnosis of the condition.
The National Autistic Society said that the evidence proved that the condition had been around for a long time, reports the BBC.
Researchers at the Institute of Child Health at University College London looked at GP data which represented 5% of patients in the UK. They used the information to estimate the number of eight year olds with autism each year.
The study concluded there was “compelling evidence that a major rise in incidence rates of autism, recorded in general practice, occurred in the decade of the 1990s but reached a plateau shortly after 2000 and has remained steady through 2010”.
Researchers believe that the changes in the way autism was diagnosed as well as greater awareness among doctors and the public explained some of the rise.
In the last UK Census it was suggested the prevalence of autism was closer to one in 100.
Carol Povey, from the National Autistic Society, said: “This study shows that, contrary to media hype, autism has been with us for a long time.
“Evidence suggests that the increase in diagnoses of autism is in large part down to greater awareness of the condition, as well as better diagnostic facilities and improved skills and knowledge among those who carry out diagnoses.
“More than one in 100 people in the UK have autism and it's important that we work to ensure they receive the support they need to reach their full potential.”
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