More Children Having ASD Than Reported

Higher Autism Figures

Have you ever wonder if the actual number of children having autism is greater than those officially reported?   Do you know any children who are facing difficulties in mainstream Primary School having some autistic traits but are not classified having autism?  Have you wonder why more boys are reported having autism?  At least this research provide some possible answers.

Boy And Girl With Big Eyes In Spring
UK researchers studying a large population of children concluded that many children have a measurable lack of social and communication skills that is not severe enough to meet the clinical criteria for autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), but can nevertheless affect their adjustment and behaviour at school. They also found that unlike boys, girls with above average verbal IQ were less likely to be hampered by such deficits.

Research has already established there are a lot more school age children with mild but measurable autistic traits or “social communicative deficits” than there are children clinically diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). But what was not yet clear was how many such children there might be and how possessing such deficits might hamper their development and adjustment.

The Study

For the study,  parents of over 8,000 children to fill in a Social and Communication Disorders Checklist about their child. The researchers then compared results from this parent-report checklist with independently diagnosed cases of ASD in the cohort, plus assessments of cognitive ability and teacher ratings of adaptation in the classroom.

The results showed that:

  • Social and Communication Disorders Checklist scores were evenly spread throughout the population: boys had mean scores that were 30 per cent higher than girls (the higher the score, the higher the degree of social communication impairment).
  • Impairment measured on this Checklist was linked with functional impairment at school, and particularly with hyperactivity and conduct disorders.
  • Girls with higher verbal IQ appeared to be protected against such impairment, across the range of abilities, but not boys.
The authors concluded that measurable deficits in social and communication skills in boys and girls social communicative deficits are significantly linked to behavioural adjustment at school, perhaps to the point of being predictive. Also, the high prevalence of such deficits in the general population emphasized:

“The importance of measuring such traits among clinically referred children who do not meet diagnostic ASD criteria,” wrote the authors.

“Above-average verbal IQ seems to confer protection against social communication impairments in female subjects but not in male subjects,” they added.

Importance of This Research

We should be aware that there are kids who don’t have autism but may have higher levels of autistic traits, and they are as likely to experience behavioural and development problems as other children having autism.

IQ may not be an accurate measurement of whether a child will have social communication impairments as only females with higher IQ are more likely to be protected against it.  


Depending on how well a society aware and recognized the traits of autism, many mild cases of autism will remain unreported and unnoticed.   

As pointed out in the Research, there are many cases for children who are not severe enough to meet the clinical criteria for autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), but can nevertheless affect their adjustment and behaviour at school.  Therefore, our school system may need also to change , cater and recognize the challenges faced by these children in the mainstream.   


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