The Daily Telegraph, The Times and a number of other media titles have today published articles about new research from Canada, which suggests that over time the profiles of people receiving an autism diagnosis have changed. You can read a preview of the Daily Telegraph article on their website. The full study is available to read at JAMA Psychiatry.

We know that the way that this research has been written about might cause some autistic people and their families concern. We know that people across the autism spectrum still struggle to get the support and understanding they need. This is the comment we issued to the media (which was part quoted in The Telegraph’s coverage):

Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society's Centre for Autism, said: "This is a detailed and thought provoking study. We should not rush to conclusions about its implications, as there could be many reasons behind the apparent trends identified by the authors.

"Our understanding of autism has changed a lot since it was first identified in the 1940s and there is now widespread acknowledgement that autism is a spectrum. This means that every autistic person is different, but all face difficulties with communication and social interaction.

“Autism is not defined solely by certain characteristics such as “Theory of Mind” or brain size, as pulled out by this study. These are sometimes disputed markers for autism and, whatever happens, they should not be used to say whether some people are 'more' or 'less' autistic than others.

"Though even better understanding is still needed, professionals are getting better at identifying how autism can manifest differently in people, for instance in women and girls, and how someone’s needs may change over their life.

"Whatever the differences between autistic people, we hear every day that people across the autism spectrum face difficulties in getting the support they need – and, as a result far too many autistic people face real and serious challenges throughout their lives. Fewer than half of autistic children are happy at school and 70% have mental health problems, only 16% autistic adults are in full time work and autistic people are even at risk of dying prematurely.”

Further information

  • Read the full study on the JAMA Psychiatry website.
  • Find out more about diagnosis on our website. This includes information on the process for children and adults, what to do following a diagnosis and diagnostic terms and criteria.