In 2005, the Bureau of Autism Services, PA Department of Public Welfare commissioned Dr. David Mandell and Lindsay Lawer, MS, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research, to conduct a census of the number of individuals diagnosed with autism living in Pennsylvania.
Why was this study conducted?
The PA Autism Task Force noted that the prevalence of autism was unknown due to a lack of a comprehensive approach to track these individuals. In response, the PA Bureau of Autism Services, Department of Public Welfare conducted a study to estimate the number of individuals in the Commonwealth living with autism. This is the first study of its kind in Pennsylvania.
The purpose of this study was to obtain an estimate of the number of individuals living with autism in Pennsylvania as well as to learn about demographic characteristics of that population. The intention was to reveal the scope of need for autism-specific services and programs and to inform policy development and the design of effective services.
According to the study, in 2005 there were close to 20,000 Pennsylvanians living with autism receiving services. Given trends, we expect that number has risen to 25,000-30,000 children and adults in PA with autism.
Numbers in PA: Transition to Adulthood
- 2005: There were just over 1,400 adults with autism receiving services in Pennsylvania
- 2010: 179% increase to 3,825 adults with autism in PA
- 2015: 621% increase to 10,140 adults with autism in PA
- 2020: 1,292% increase to 19,587 adults with autism in PA
Beginning in 2013, ASERT will be working to update the census conducted in 2005 with additional years of data from the Pennsylvania Departments of Public Welfare and Education, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Office of Medical Assistance Programs, the Office of Children, Youth and Families, Crime and Delinquency, and the Department of Corrections. This cross-system update will provide a more targeted picture of autism in Pennsylvania.
What needs to happen?
We hope that the results of the census study will inform decision-makers at local, regional and state levels and encourage all stakeholder groups to work together to discuss the impact it will have on your communities.
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