A child with autism plays with other children (file).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Over the past decade, the number of people known to have autism in Israel has increased threefold, the Labor and Social Services Ministry reported on Sunday.
The ministry released the statistics on the Autism Spectrum Disorder on the International Day for Autism Awareness, marked annually on April 2.
In 2007, there were some 3,949 people with autism known to the ministry; in 2016 there were 14,269. In 2016, 16.9 out of every 10,000 Israelis had autism, compared to 5.5 cases in 2007.
The ministry attributes part of the sharp increase to increased diagnosis and awareness of the disorder.
Similarly, in the US, the incidence of autism dramatically increased, from 4 cases per 10,000 people in the 1960s, to 146 cases for every 10,000 people today, according to data gathered from the US Centers for Disease Control.
In Israel, some 80% of people with autism are male, and 80% of people with autism are children or youth up to the age of 24, according to the ministry.
There is a direct correlation between socioeconomic status and autism – the higher the socioeconomic rating of the municipality, the higher the proportion of residents with autism.
As such, the ministry said that the highest rate of autistic people is found in Tel Aviv and Center district – 20.6 per 10,000 people.
The lowest rate was found in the Haifa and Northern district, with 12.6 people with autism per 10,000 residents.
The ministry said this stems from the fact that there is more awareness of autism as well as better facilities to care for people with the condition in the Tel Aviv and Central areas.
Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz said on Sunday: “Over the past two years I have doubled the budgets allocated to autism and have dramatically improved the quality of care for this population.
“Now that we have created the infrastructure we must advance already this year the ‘Autism Law’ proposed by MK Orly Levy-Abecassis that will protect their rights under the law,” he added.
In 2017, the ministry increased its budget for housing and community projects for people with autism by NIS 51 million, and it is expected to allocate an additional NIS 51m. in 2018 – reaching an annual budget of NIS 350m.
Additionally, in 2016, Katz increased the number of social workers treating people with autism, from seven to 117. The minister also approved the building of 17 housing frameworks, expected to provide housing solutions for some 400 children and adults with autism in the coming year.