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A new estimate on autism prevalence in Australia has been announced today by Aspect (Autism Spectrum Australia), indicating it’s likely that at least 1 in 40 individuals are on the autism spectrum, higher than the previous estimate of 1 in 70.

The announcement comes as Aspect celebrates World Autism Understanding Day and helps the general public learn more about what autism means and how to best support someone in their life or community who is Autistic.

Jacqui Borland, Aspect’s CEO said it’s important to provide updates on the current best estimates regarding the prevalence of autism in Australia.

“Not only is this validating for many Autistic people and their families, but also shows the wider population how common neurodiversity is and the importance of creating a more inclusive society,” said Ms Borland.

“There has been no epidemiological study into autism prevalence in Australia, however based on the most recent studies conducted here and in other western nations it is clear the prevalence of autism in Australia is much higher than previous estimates.

“The increased prevalence rate does not necessarily indicate a rise in autism, but rather increased awareness and an enhancement in health professionals’ ability to recognise and diagnose. We have also seen a boost in diagnoses amongst previously under-recognised groups such as women and girls, along with older Australians aged 60+.”

An autism diagnosis in most cases is a positive experience for an individual and their family, as it provides meaning and explanation, and access to appropriate supports and services.

Dr Fiona Aldridge, Manager and Clinical Psychologist, Aspect Assessments said early diagnosis of autism in children is particularly beneficial.

“Early diagnosis can unlock access to targeted supports that enhance social and educational growth, helping the child to reach their full potential,” said Dr Aldridge.

“And in adulthood, a diagnosis can be key to living a more fulfilling and supported life. It can lead to the development of deeper and more meaningful connections, and enable access to necessary supports, all of which contribute to a positive sense of identity and wellbeing.”

The new prevalence estimate highlights the importance of supporting and understanding Autistic individuals and their families who represent a significant proportion of the Australian community.

“Autism is a lifelong developmental condition, influencing how individuals interact with their environment and others around them,” added Ms Borland.

“On this World Autism Understanding Day, Aspect is calling for greater understanding in the community to support the estimated 675,000 Australians on the autism spectrum. We know that better understanding of autism is key to removing barriers, building empathy and fostering a more inclusive society.”

Specific actions individuals can take to support an Autistic person, be it in the home, school, community or workforce include:

icon for Respect and accept Autistic people

Respect and accept Autistic people

Recognise that everyone is unique, and autism presents differently in each individual.

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Open communication

Ask the individual how they prefer to communicate and ask if they require any support.

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Avoid assumptions

Avoid stereotyping based on preconceived notions of autism.

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Be patient

Allow the individual time to process information and express themselves in their own way.

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