Friday, 6 March 2009


  • Autism now affects about one in 100 children. There are around 100,000 children with autism in the UK, with around half a million family members directly affected by the condition. 1
  • Four times as many boys as girls have autism 2

Autism and education

  • In schools with pupils with autism, only 22% of teachers have been trained specifically in autism – the majority of training given is typically one to four hours.3
  • The most recent survey found only 7,500 specialist places for over 90,000 children with autism in the UK. 4
  • One in five children with autism have been excluded from school, the majority of those on more than one occasion. 5
  • The number of autistic pupils with a statement in England has increased greatly from 23,960 in 2004 to 34,550 in 2008. Figures for the numbers of pupils on the autism spectrum on School Action Plus show a greater increase, from 7,300 in 2004 to 12,750 in 2008. 6

What this means for parents, carers and children

  • Many families with autism live in poverty as it costs on average three times more to raise a child with a severe impairment than a non-disabled child. 7
  • Parents of children with autism are more likely to split up – perhaps as many as 80%.
  • Only 11% of carers who have children with autism work full time, and 70% say the lack of appropriate care facilities stops them working. 8
  • Over 40% of children with autism have been bullied at school. 9
  • Parents of children with autism are more likely to go to Tribunal about their child’s education. 10


A cautious estimate is that autism currently costs the UK economy at least £1billion each year, the vast majority spent on lifetime care. According to a 2000 study, the average lifetime cost of autism was estimated as £2.94m. The research team stated that ‘Evidence suggests that even moderate increases in educational provision could potentially result in major savings in later living costs’. 11


  1. The Office of National Statistics recently reported a rate of autism of 1% in the population of school-age children. Office of National Statistics (2005), Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, London: Palgrave Macmillan. The Medical Research Council suggested a prevalence rate of 1 in 166 children under 8, while teachers have reported numbers as high as 1 in 80. Medical Research Council (2002) Review of Autism Research: Causes and Epidemiology, MRC: London; Barnard, J. et. al. (2003), Autism in Schools: Crisis or Challenge?, NAS: London.
  2. In the ONS survey cited above, 82% of children with autism in the sample were boys.
  3. Barnard, J et. al. (2003), Autism in Schools: Crisis or Challenge?, NAS: London.
  4. Jones, G (2002), Educational Provision for Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome: Meeting Their Needs, David Fulton Publishers: London.
  5. Batten, A et. al. (2006), Autism and Education: The Reality for Families Today, NAS: London.
  6. Autism Education Trust (2008), Education Provision for Children and Young People on the autism spectrum living in England: a review of current practice, issues and challenges, NAS: London.)
  7. Sharma, N (2003), Still Missing Out? Ending poverty and social exclusion: messages to government from families with disabled children, Barnardos: London.
  8. Broach, S et. al. (2003), Autism: Rights in Reality, NAS: London.
  9. Batten, A et. al. (2006), Autism and Education: The Reality for Families Today, NAS: London.
  10. SENDIST annual report (2007)
  11. Knapp, M. & Jarbrink, K. (2000), The Cost of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities Update, 1, 7, April 2000.

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