Category Archives: Service use

The geography of special needs (and autism?) in Ireland

a2-redIf autism was assumed to affect all people at all ages approximately equally, there are somewhere between 15,000 (1 in 300) and 100,000 (1 in 43) autistic people of all ages in the Irish population of 4.6 million. It should be noted that 75% of the Irish population is older than 18 years and most will not have been assessed or diagnosed, so many autistic people are unrecognized. Recognition is widening from “severe autism in childhood” to “mild autism” and to older ages, which is probably the largest factor driving increased autism prevalence. We have also moved from recognizing approximately one autistic pupil per school to recognizing one autistic child per class in the space of ten or fifteen years.

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The value of labelling autism – Critical Perspectives 2014

Presentation at the 6th Annual Critical Perspectives Conference, 12 & 13th November 2014, University College Cork. The conference considers and explores:

  • the value and relevance of psychiatric diagnoses in understanding and responding to a wide range of human experiences of emotional distress
  • Critical perspectives on and creative responses beyond psychiatric diagnoses

Audio of the presentation (35 minutes, 11 MB):

PDF handout (6 slides per sheet, 3 sheets in total, 1.8 MB):

Stuart Neilson – The value of labelling (handout)

Online video:

Briefing note: Episodes of inpatient activity attributable to autism spectrum disorder in Irish acute hospitals

Stuart Neilson, June 2013


An autism spectrum disorder was recorded in 711 acute hospital inpatient episodes per year over the 5-year period 2007-2011, with a gender ratio of 3:1 male:female. The trend was from 429 episodes in 2007 to 1,087 in 2011, a growth rate of 26% per year.

Childhood autism (72.3%) and Asperger syndrome (17.2%) were the most frequent autism spectrum disorders recorded. Autism spectrum disorder was the primary diagnosis in only 3.6% of episodes. The average length of stay was 23.5 days for people with Asperger syndrome and 8.9 days overall – it is probable that the longer stays for people with Asperger syndrome are associated with psychiatric in-patient care.

The direct cost of admissions due to autism as a primary diagnosis was €205,000 per year, with an indirect cost (including secondary diagnoses) of €5.6 million per year. These cost estimates are also rising at 26% per annum with increasing recognition of autism as a diagnosis. Economic cost estimates can not be causatively linked with autism, but may form a context in which to evaluate interventions that reduce hospital admission rates or increase quality of life for people with autism.

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