Nov 12, 2023, Sydney Morning Herald: The unique factor that could explain why autism rates in Australia are growing faster than the global average https://amp.smh.com.au/politics/federal/the-unique-factor-that-could-explain-why-autism-rates-in-australia-are-growing-faster-than-the-global-average-20231108-p5eig4.html
Autism rates in Australian children are among the highest in the world, leading a senior researcher to suggest the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) could be driving steeper than average growth in diagnoses.
A paper by Australian National University scholar Maathu Ranjan, who is on study leave from her role as a senior actuary at the National Disability Insurance Agency that oversees the scheme, shows autism rates have risen notably in developed nations over the past 10 years.
But the increase has been sharper in Australia than in other countries with comparable economic and health systems such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom….
“It is plausible that the growth of prevalence rates above the global average in Australia can be attributed to the financial incentives created by government policy, specifically the implementation of the NDIS.”…
The review was given to disability ministers this month but will not be publicly released until chief ministers discuss it at national cabinet later this year.
They will seek reforms to make the scheme more sustainable given projections that its annual cost will soar to more than $100 billion [$64 B U.S.] by 2032, in part due to a higher-than-forecast number of children joining with autism.
More than 75 per cent of NDIS participants under 18, and 45 per cent overall, have autism or developmental delay, which can often precede an autism diagnosis.
Ranjan said neurodiversity and autism were no longer rare, and health, education and employment systems needed to reflect that – a view shared by NDIS architect Bruce Bonyhady, who is reviewing the scheme and has called for better support for children with autism in mainstream settings.
Ranjan’s research, which has not been peer reviewed, quotes international studies that show autism prevalence rates of one in 36 children in the United States, one in 50 children in Canada, and one in 57 children in the United Kingdom. In Australia, it is about one in 25 [one in every 15 boys].