‘Autism Counts’ - an Irish Autism Action-funded research project
17th July, 2013
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Prof Anthony Staines, Dr Mary Rose Sweeney, Keith Duffy and Anthony Boilson

A team of researchers from the DCU School of Nursing have established that the prevalence rates of autism in Irish children is around 1% - similar to UK and US figures.

This landmark study into the prevalence of autism in Ireland was conducted by Professor Anthony Staines and Dr Mary Rose Sweeney as principal investigators, with Anthony Boilson of DCU and Alvaro Ramirez of European Protocol for Autism Prevalence as lead researchers. The study was funded by the charity Irish Autism Action.

The research involved a study of over 9000 children in Dublin, Galway, Waterford and Cork, and involved enormous cooperation from parents and schools. According to Dr Mary Rose Sweeney, “The results are very important because now the trends can be monitored to see if and how the rates change over time. In addition, Governments can allocate appropriate funds to care for our children’s educational and social needs. But perhaps more importantly, this study has established a standard method that can now be used across Europe to examine autism rates across Europe. Until now, previous studies have all used different methods, making it difficult to draw comparisons between different studies”.

“Accurate prevalence estimates are important for several reasons, including monitoring trends, studying the burden of disease, determining risk factors, for policy making and health and social care provision. It is hoped that other European studies will use the protocol to study rates across Europe allowing us to directly compare rates internationally”, said Dr Sweeney.