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.
This year’s federal budget earmarked $20 million for a national autism strategy, including 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.
“Understanding trends and patterns in ASD diagnosis is essential to developing meaningful programs and services to support people living with ASD and their families,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, noting that the estimates establish a baseline that will help researchers determine if prevalence rates are changing over time.