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Stats and facts

The stats on the problems that many children and young people with autism face and why it’s so important for us to tackle them.

Boy with autism © Photo by Sara Dunn

Autism is often a hidden disability, so let’s bring a few facts to light.

Before we do, though, a warning: if you’re a parent reading this, be warned that some of these statistics can feel pretty discouraging. We’re not trying to worry you, we believe strongly that with good support, children with autism can have happy and rewarding lives. The reason we’re presenting these stats is to highlight the problems that many children and young people with autism face, and to make it clear why it’s so important for us to tackle them.

If you’re a parent and you’re dealing with some of these issues already, it can help to know you’re not alone. There are many people like you dealing with the same things, and we believe that we’re stronger when we work together to tackle them.

How common is autism?

It’s common: the UK estimate is that approximately one in 100 children have it[1].

How many children with autism are there?

In the UK, around 100,000[2].

What is the difference in diagnosis rates between boys and girls?

Presently, four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with autism[3].

How do children with autism fare at school?

  • First, the basic statistics: 70% of children with autism are educated in mainstream schools; the rest are in specialist provisions[4] (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: different environments suit different children).
  • Over 11% of children with special educational needs in state funded schools have a diagnosis of autism[5].
  • The number of Statements/EHCPs that list autism as the primary need has increased by 3% since 2010[6].

What about quality of teaching?

  • 60% of teachers in England do not feel they have had adequate training to teach children with autism[7].
  • 35% of teachers think it has become harder to access specialist support for children with autism[8].

Another problem is that children with autism are at risk of exclusion

  • A survey we conducted found that 40% of parents reported that their son or daughter had been informally and illegally excluded in the last 12 months and 20% had been excluded formally .
  • Government statistics show that children with a statement of special educational needs are six times more likely to be excluded from school than children with no special educational needs[9].

Sadly, children with autism are also at risk of bullying

  • Primary school pupils with special educational needs are twice as likely as other children to suffer from persistent bullying[10]
  • Fifteen-year-olds with statements of special educational needs are more likely to be excluded by a group of schoolmates or called names – a form of victimisation that is often referred to as “relational bullying”[11]

What about academic achievement?

  • In 2012-13, 61% of all GCSE pupils achieved five A*-C grades, including English and Mathematics. This was an increase of 2% from the previous year[12].
  • In the same year, 26% GCSE students with autism achieved A*-C grades in those subjects. This was also an increase of over 2% from the previous year[13].

How do people with autism do after school?

  • Fewer than one in four school leavers with autism stay in further or higher education[14].
  • 77% of young people with special educational needs such as autism who take A-Levels or equivalent exams will go on to higher education, employment or training[15].
  • 17% of nineteen-year-olds with a disability (as compared with 7% of non-disabled nineteen-year-olds) report being ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ dissatisfied with their life so far[16].

None of these facts are inevitable – we see it as our job to make these statistics a thing of the past. We know that children with autism can succeed at school and autism should not be a barrier to a good education and a healthy, happy rewarding life.


[1] Office of National Statistics (2005), Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, London: Palgrave Macmillan[1]

[2] Knapp, Martin, Renee Romeo & Jennifer Beecham (2007), The Economic Consequences of Autism in the UK

[3] Office of National Statistics, Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, London: Palgrave Macmillan

[4] DfE Special educational needs in England: January 2014

[5] DfE Special educational needs in England: January 2014

[6] DfE Special educational needs in England: January 2014

[7]  NASUWT Support for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs (June 2013)

[8] NASUWT Support for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs (June 2013)

[9] DfE Special educational needs in England: January 2014

[10] Institute of Education 2014

[11] Institute of Education 2014

[12] DfE GCSE and equivalent attainment by pupil characteristics: 2013

[13] DfE GCSE and equivalent attainment by pupil characteristics: 2013

[14] Office of National Statistics (2009), Social Trends, No 39 and Data Service (2011), MI reports – Regional Learning Disability/Difficulty Report

[15] Office of National Statistics, Young People not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), August 2014

[16] Department for Education (2011) The Activities and Experiences of 19 year olds, England 2010

 

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