Connell Consulting

HealthInvestor Oct 2014: Helping hand

Increased demand indicates growth for autism services, finds Clare Connell of Connell Consulting.

Increased incidence of autism

Almost 700,000 people in the UK, or 1.1% of the population, have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to latest figures from the National Autistic Society. Combined with the families of people with autism, it affects the lives of about 2.8 million people in the UK every day.

While the causes of autism are still unproven, experts believe that the interaction between several complex genetic and environmental factors that affect brain development are responsible. Research does indicate that genetic factors are important. Older parents, particularly older fathers, are more likely to produce autistic children.

It has been said by some researchers that environmental factors are as important as genetics in understanding autism and it has been linked to various environmental factors such as crop spraying and pollution. There has been a lot of speculation about autism and the MMR vaccination, and although it is still believed by some to be a cause or to increase the risk of developing autism, research has not shown evidence of this. Maternal infections such as rubella, birth complications and medication during pregnancy and both during and immediately after birth have all been considered in studies and the research into autism continues every day.

Studies have proven that premature babies are more likely to have autism than those that are born full term. Low birth weight has also been shown to increase the risk of developing autism. Improved medical treatment of premature babies has led to much greater survival rates in the past 20 years which has increased the number of children and young people with autism…