The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) may be the only place in the world where the diagnosis rate (prevalence) for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in young children is dropping. SOfASD produced a monograph raising concerns that the autism/ASD diagnosis rate for children under 10 years of age is falling in the ACT when the rate continues to rise in the rest of the country. Current data from a range of sources shows that the number of ASD diagnoses in the ACT are well below the numbers observed elsewhere in Australia.
The drop relative to the national rate in ASD diagnoses/revalence should concern the ACT Government as it is likely that many children with autism/ASD are being diagnosed too late to access essential early intervention. The Commonwealth Government created its Helping Children with Autism funding package because state/territory Governments do not fund anything like appropriate early intervention for children with autism (see http://a4.org.au/node/37). Diagnosis rates for children aged 10-14 years remain at a similar level to the national average, so it appears that many children with ASD in the ACT are diagnosed much later than in the rest of the country.
The monograph can be downloaded from the link below.
The ASD community in the ACT made repeated suggestions that the ACT Government improve diagnostic services for children in the ACT. But the ACT Government has ignored repeated suggestions to unify existing services, including the currently segregated ASD diagnostic service (with its own waiting list), into a single unified service that is responsible for diagnosis of a wide range of childhood disorders/conditions. These suggestions were included in submissions to the ACT Budget since 2009 (see http://sofasd.org.au/d7/node/31). A unified service would be cheaper, quicker, more efficient and deliver more complete diagnoses; as a result of better diagnoses, children could access more of the services and supports they need.
Hoping to understand why the diagnosis rates in the ACT are dropping, SOfASD is surveying people who tried (whether or not they succeeded) to get a child diagnosed with autism/ASD in the ACT, especially those who attempted to have a child diagnosed in the last 5 years. Please encourage anyone who relevant to complete the survey at http://sofasd.org.au/d7/surveys/index.php?sid=36363.