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Asperger's Syndrome

Health written question – answered on 29th April 2004.

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Photo of John Battle John Battle Labour, Leeds West

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if his Department will set up an inquiry into the number of (a) adolescents and (b) adults with an Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

The Department has no plans to set up an inquiry of this type. The Medical Research Council (MRC) published a comprehensive review of autism research in December 2001, which provides an authoritative overview of the current state of knowledge on the prevalence, incidence and causes of autism and Asperger's syndrome. The report was commissioned by the Department. It is available on the MRC website at http://www.mrc.ac.uk/pdf-autism-report.pdf

The MRC report notes that according to recent reviews, there appears fairly consistent agreement that autism spectrum disorders affect approximately 60, and more narrowly defined autism 10–30, per 10,000 children under eight years old. The prevalence of autism and Asperger's syndrome among adult and adolescent populations is not known.

The Department allocated a further £2.5 million in February 2002 to the MRC to help take forward the recommendations of their report.

The MRC held a series of four seminars to encourage the development of good quality applications for autism research funding between December 2002 and July 2003. On 11 July 2003, the MRC held the first of its annual forums for autism research, "Breaking barriers, building bridges", in conjunction with the National Autistic Society, to bring together ideas stimulated by the four seminars, one of which had addressed "Autism in Populations".

The MRC will be taking decisions on the allocation of research project funding for further autism studies in May 2004.

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