TORONTO – A new report says an estimated one in every 66 Canadian children and youth aged five to 17 has autism spectrum disorder.
The report by the Public Health Agency of Canada is the first detailing the national prevalence of the neurodevelopmental disorder and is in line with estimates in the United States.
Autism spectrum disorder is typically detected in early childhood and causes impairments in communication skills and social interactions, often combined with repetitive behaviours and restricted interests or activities.
Boys are four to five times more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, than girls.
The report includes data from six provinces and one territory and found prevalence ranged from a high of one in 57 children in Newfoundland and Labrador, to one in 126 in Yukon. It did not include data from Ontario or the Prairie provinces and captured about 40 per cent of Canada’s youth and children.
Canada does not have a national autism strategy, though this year’s federal budget earmarked $20 million over five years towards ASD. The money would include funding for a network to connect people with ASD and their families to information, resources and employment opportunities, and community-based projects to strengthen health, social and educational programs.