The National Epidemiologic Database for the Study of Autism in Canada reports that in Canada currently 1 in 94 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The Canadian Medical Association Journal reports similar findings, specifically that 1% of the Canadian population is affected by autism spectrum disorder. This means that in Ontario there are approximately 100,000 individuals on the autism spectrum. As a personal injury lawyer, I am no longer surprised when I am retained by an injury victim that has a pre-existing medical history that includes autism.
There is reasonable scientific evidence that the prevalence of autism has actually increased in recent decades and this is not just artifact of over diagnosis or changed definitions. Various theories have been put forward for this increase, some reasonable some not. Asperger syndrome, which term you have probably heard, is now basically a milder form of autism spectrum.
When the medical community speaks of autism as a spectrum disorder, the important legal principle to bear in mind is simply that the degree to which each person will experience difficulties as a result of their autism will vary greatly. The fact remains that a number of Ontarians low on the spectrum are quite independent and can be found in our local schools and office buildings leading fulfilling lives with very little, if any, extraordinary support.
As a lawyer representing an injury victim with autism, it is of paramount importance to appreciate that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) definition of autism specifically indicates that such individuals are pre-disposed to anxiety and depression. However, autism spectrum disorder itself is not a degenerative disorder.