top of page

Psychology Today: Blaming 1/22 autism rate in N. Ireland on trauma

Jan 14, 2022, Psychology Today: Autism and Northern Ireland There are high rates of autism in Northern Ireland. Could trauma explain why?

…We are now twenty-plus years on from The Good Friday Agreement, which has been widely credited with bringing an end to terrorism and the conflict, but the country is still deeply divided along religious and political lines and the mental and emotional health of the general population is poor. Northern Ireland has tragically high rates of suicide and also reportedly has one of the highest rates of anti-depressant medication usage in the world. As mentioned earlier, the rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have been documented as being the highest in the world, too. What is interesting to me as a researcher, a counselor, and a late-diagnosed autistic adult who was brought up in Northern Ireland, is the prevalence of autism diagnoses within the younger generations. This suggests to me that the legacy and the trauma of the troubles may be impacting the neurological and mental development of the younger generations. Large numbers of these parents would have been born and grown up in a time of extreme violence and uncertainty. The impact of this trauma and stress may be influencing the high rates of neurodiversity we are now seeing amongst many of their children and their peers. Recent figures produced by Autism NI state that 1 in 22 school-aged children in Northern Ireland have an autism diagnosis. In America, those rates are 1 in 59, in England, they are 1 in 57. I would argue that the numbers are even higher than what is being recorded as it is regularly stated that autism is an underdiagnosed condition, particularly in females. My story to a diagnosis is an example of how many professionals missed this condition, particularly as I was deemed to have low support needs or to be high functioning. There are also regular reports in Northern Ireland of huge waiting lists and backlogs on assessments for children and young people. It would seem that an alarming proportion of us in Northern Ireland have developmental conditions/ disorders and the numbers seem to be growing all the time. When I researched and read about trauma and how it affects development and cognition, it seems to me that there may be links between the rates of neurodivergence within the population and transgenerational trauma transmission and post-traumatic stress disorder….


bottom of page