December 13, 2001
Medical Research Council autism
Department of Health welcomes authoritative report
- Health Minister Jacqui Smith today welcomed publication of the Medical
Research Council report of its detailed review of the current state of
knowledge about autism.
The report, commissioned by the Department of Health in March this year,
provides a clear picture of what scientific research has revealed about the
occurrence and causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). It accepts that
autism is not as rare as previously thought but notes that the apparent
increase in prevalence of ASDs is likely to have resulted from better
diagnosis and clearer definition as well as increased awareness and makes
recommendations on the future research strategy for the UK.
Key MRC report recommendations include:
- Ensure that the experience of people with ASDs are included in research.
- More research on the definition of ASDs, especially in adults - crucial
for both future research and provision of services for those with ASDs
- The use of large population studies, which include genetic data, to
address questions about environmental risks and their interaction with
- More research on the long-term effects of ASDs and other medical
conditions associated with these disorders
Jacqui Smith said:
"We welcome the Medical Research Council's authoritative report of the
current state of knowledge of the prevalence, incidence and causes of
autism. We would like to thank everyone involved, in particular the many lay
people who contributed to the review.
"The MRC report offers a firm foundation on which further research
programmes can be built and I hope the findings stimulate the research
community to develop proposals to address the key issues raised in the
review. We will maintain a dialogue with the MRC over the implications of
this review for their research programmes.
"We note the report's conclusion that the strongest evidence to date is for
a major genetic component in causation and that we need to investigate the
interaction between genetic and environmental factors. We welcome the MRC
Group's confirmation that the evidence does not support a causal link
between MMR and ASDs. Parents should feel reassured that MMR is the safest
way for them to protect their children.
"As a Government we are committed to improving services for all people with
autism. They will benefit from a range of more general initiatives which we
are taking such as the NHS Plan, Quality Protects and the Mental Health
National Service Framework. And the National Service Framework for Children
will also address how to improve services for disabled children, including
those with autism.
"Our White Paper 'Valuing People' will directly benefit people with autism
who also have learning disabilities. By bringing together health, social
care and educational agencies, it gives us the scope to improve
opportunities and services for people across the autistic spectrum. We have
already included a statement in guidance on the implementation of the White
Paper that people with Asperger's Syndrome may require an assessment of
their social functioning and communication skills in order to establish
their level of need."