Laying the Foundation for Policy: Measuring Local Prevalence for Autism Spectrum Disorder
19 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2014
Date Written: September 25, 2014
Claims have been made that families with children living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been migrating to Alberta because of higher funding available for ASD supports compared to other provinces. The legitimacy of these claims, along with many others about the adequacy or inadequacy of funding for supporting persons living with ASD, has not been evaluated because we simply don’t know how many people in Alberta are living with ASD. Typically in Canada, ASD prevalence is reported in national figures, based on international estimates. Canadian prevalence estimates for ASD are needed. With no national surveillance system in place, national estimates are difficult to determine. In addition, such broad measurements are problematic as they may not adequately inform the service delivery needs for specific jurisdictions.
A new study shows that 1,711, or 1 in 94, school age children in the Calgary region have an ASD diagnosis. As this number matches what is often reported for the national prevalence of ASD, it suggests that Alberta’s relatively higher ASD funding is not inducing in-migration of families seeking better support. The data also show that the prevalence is higher in elementary-grade children, with a diagnosis in one of every 86 children. In the senior grades, there are significantly fewer students with ASD diagnoses, specifically within the Calgary Board of Education. There is no evident reason for diagnoses to seemingly dematerialize in the older grades. These students could be dropping out or choosing home-schooling in greater numbers. Possibly there has been an increase in prevalence.
These prevalence estimates help to inform the demand for special-needs services within the local school system. In addition, there is growing concern that upon graduation there is a “support cliff” resulting from a less systematized, less generous support system available for adults with neurodevelopmental disability. Families that need support for ASD face enough challenges; it is critical for policy-makers to be aware of the extent of the situation in their own jurisdiction so as to develop the right kinds of supports for these families.
Keywords: autism, autism spectrum disorder, prevalance rate, ASD
JEL Classification: I1, I10, I18, I12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation