4428.0 - Autism in Australia, 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/07/2011  First Issue
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Data Sources and Definitions DATA SOURCES AND DEFINITIONS

Autism spectrum disorders, in this publication, include Autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, Rett's Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – not otherwise stated, which is also known as atypical autism.

The data for this publication was drawn from the 2009 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). This survey was designed to measure the prevalence of disability in Australia and the extent to which specific conditions are associated with disability. The SDAC identifies disabling conditions by first asking whether people are limited in a particular aspect of function (e.g. do they have any problems with their sight? Do they have difficulty learning or understanding things?) and then asks what the main condition causing that limitation. The SDAC is not a diagnostic survey and it doesn't aim to identify whether people have specific conditions based on symptoms they experience. Nor is it a health survey and is therefore not designed to provide estimates of the prevalence of specific health conditions. As a result, the data may underestimate the overall prevalence of autism spectrum disorders.

The survey has two components:- in the household component trained interviewers conduct personal interviews at private dwellings throughout Australia to obtain detailed information about aspects of peoples disabilities, the types and frequency of assistance with activities they need, and details of assistance they provide to others to enable them to participate in daily activities. The household component relies on self-reporting of conditions (approx. 63,500 of the 73,000 respondents). In the Establishments component a small questionnaire is sent to a sample of residential care facilities (hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) which asks about the nature of residents disabilities and the assistance they need with everyday activities. People in the establishment component of the survey (approx. 9,500 respondents) had information supplied by a member of staff of the health care establishment within which they lived.

There were no changes to the SDAC questions or approach between the 2003 and 2009 versions that would have effected the identification of people with autism.