The Extent of Autism

I\’m not all that sure about these numbers:

There are approximately 540,000 people with autism in the UK, of which 433,000 are adults who are largely unemployed.

That 540 k number: Just under one in 100 of the population or so. That looks to me like it\’s the number of people with both autism and autism spectrum conditions (like Asperger\’s Syndrome). That fits in with Simon Baron Cohen\’s (the leading researcher in the field) numbers.

Sort of important to note the difference though: Aspie\’s can be as little as being socially not very acute, while "classic" autism goes al the way to not interactinig with the outside world at all.

No, not the most massively important point ever, just an example of the way in which numbers can be expanded to make a case.

8 thoughts on “The Extent of Autism”

  1. The autistic are FAR MORE prevelant than that – what percentage of the cabinet might well fit into this spectrum ?

    This is only partially a humerous point ….

    Alan Douglas

  2. Isn’t this a classic case of a trend changing rapidly as soon as it’s detection and measurement methods get sharpened up, and careers, funding and awards become dependant on stacking up the seriousness of the trend?

    Here’s an extreme hypothetical example. Very many pregnancies end in the very early stages, with a natural miscarriage. It was ever so. Most of these have gone undocumented throughout the ages. But now we live in the age of the mobile ‘phone, and expectant mothers have a way to summon emergency services. So I would be unsurprised if the recorded incidence of miscarriage increased, at a rate similar to the availability of mobile phone coverage. Hey presto! Electromagnetic radiation is suddenly at the root of a steep increase in miscarriages.

  3. ‘Aspie’s can be as little as being socially not very acute’

    No they can’t, Tim. There needs to be more than that – a deal more. Have a look at the protocols (if that’s the right term). It’s not something to be seemingly dismissed as lightly as that.

    Tim adds: It is a spectrum after all. There’s no firm dividing line between simple lack of social acuity and Aspie’s. What has changed, I will agree, is that the diagnosis has changed. I’ve not read the protocols, I agree, but I have read a lot of Simon Baron Cohen (I’m paid to write a blog related to the subject here: and he says that the spectrum goes from those with “classic autism” right through to those who function reasonably well within society, well, but oddly.

  4. “Socially not very acute” implies that the communication difficulties are one-sided. But the whole point of communicating is that it involves TWO parties.

    In other words it is as much the fault of “typical” human beings as it is those on the Autistic Spectrum.

    It is also worth pointing out that in my experience (via my son) that people with Asperger’s have absolutely no problems with each other, which just re-inforces the suggestion that so-called “typical” people actually have pretty narrow social acumen.

  5. It’s Aspies that have the narrow social acumen. There are worlds of meaning that are completely closed to them. By trying to relate to people in a purely mechanistic and non-fuzzy way, Aspies are trying to play the game with only a few cards. If they relate well to each other, that’s because among themselves they don’t expect the emotional dimenstion, not being aware of it. That proves nothing.

  6. Fair point Stephen, but you still haven’t addressed the fact that Aspies can communicate in a precise and “non-fuzzy” fashion, but most “typical” people are unable to do so. So the weakness still remains on both sides.

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