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Keywords:

  • adolescent;
  • autism spectrum disorders;
  • co-morbidity;
  • mental health;
  • prevalence

Abstract

Aims: The aims of this study were to determine the point prevalence of autism spectrum disorders and to estimate the prevalence of autistic traits in a youth mental health service.

Methods: Following three educational sessions on autism spectrum disorders, treating clinicians were interviewed to determine whether the clients on their caseloads had (i) a confirmed prior diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder; (ii) were felt to exhibit autistic traits; or (iii) were not felt to exhibit autistic traits.

Results: Information on autism spectrum disorder status was obtained for 476 patients. Of the included patients, 3.4% (n = 16) had a confirmed diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and 7.8% (n = 37) were reported by treating clinicians to exhibit autistic traits.

Conclusions: The rate of autism spectrum disorder was higher in this population than that in community samples with twice as many again being identified as having autistic traits by their treating clinicians. This has implications for correct diagnosis and appropriate management in these settings.