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Study highlights undiagnosed autism

Research has suggested that thousands of people may have undiagnosed autism.

The call comes after researchers in England found that around 1% of adults met the diagnostic criteria for an autistic spectrum disorder.

However the study found that among that group not one person was aware that they may have the condition.

Asperger's syndrome is among the developmental handicaps falling under the autism banner. Sufferers of these handicaps see their ability to communicate and relate to others impaired.

Individuals with autism can be affected in a wide range of ways. While some need full-time support, others manage to live almost undisturbed by the condition.

The research found autism was more common in men, people without higher educational qualifications, and those living in social housing.

Scientists carrying out the survey, the first study of autism prevalence in a general adult population, conducted 7,461 screening interviews in 2007.

The new findings, published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, confirmed previously reported data showing that 9.8 per 1,000 adults in England has autism.

They revealed no evidence of an 'autism epidemic' or increasing rates of the condition.

But the study did show that none of the identified cases of autism had previously been diagnosed.

Lead researcher Professor Traolach Brugha, from the University of Leicester, said: "It is very concerning that none of the cases we confirmed using rigorous diagnostic assessment methods in the community knew that they had the condition or had an official diagnosis."

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Archives of General Psychiatry