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BURDEN

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), an estimated 164,000 Australians had autism in 2015. This represented an overall prevalence rate of 0.7%, or about 1 in 150 people. The number of people with autism in Australia has increased considerably in recent years, up from an estimated 64,400 people in 2009. Of those who were estimated to have autism in 2015, 143,900 were identified as also having disability (88%).

  • ABS 2016b. Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers 2015, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/autism-in-australia/contents/autism

Autism is most commonly identified in children and young people. As such, people with autism were more likely to be younger, with 83% aged under 25. Autism was most prevalent among children aged 5 to 14 in 2009, 2012 and 2015, reflecting the general increase in diagnosis for school age children.

Males were 4 times as likely as females to be reported as having autism, representing 81% of the population of people with autism.

People with autism may face barriers in education associated with their condition. In 2015, there were an estimated 83,700 children and young people (aged 5–20) with autism and disability, living in households and attending school. The majority (85%) reported difficulty at school, with more than 1 in 4 (28%) attending a special school [5]. The most common types of difficulty experienced were fitting in socially (63%), learning difficulties (62%) and communication difficulties (52%) (Table 1). Students with autism used various resources to support learning, with 56% receiving special tuition, and 44% using a counsellor or disability support person.

Table 1: Five most common schooling difficulties for people aged 5–20 with autism and disability, 2015

 Schooling difficulty   Percent gain
 Fitting in socially  63
 Learning difficulties  62
 Communication difficulties  52
 Intellectual difficulties  27
 Difficulty sitting  18