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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Oxford given 4m for autism research
Autistic boy
The cases of autism are thought to be increasing
An anonymous American benefactor has given Oxford University 3.7m to investigate the causes and treatment of autism.

The donation comes as the latest research suggests the number of cases of the condition are on the increase.


Cases of autism are on the increase

Dr Ken Fleming
Earlier studies had estimated the prevalence of autism at between four to six cases per 10,000, but researchers from the Central Clinic, Stafford, and King's College, London found the rate to be nearer 17 cases per 10,000.

The endowment will allow the university to establish a new chair in psychiatry - based at St John's College - and appropriate support for the post.

The chair's principle focus will be to assess and research issues relating to the causes and potential cures for autism and related conditions.

Dr Ken Fleming, head of Oxford's medical sciences division, said the timing of the benefaction was particularly apposite.

"Cases of autism are on the increase," Dr Fleming said.

"This is as a result of greater diagnosis, but there also is a genuine increase in the numbers."

Complex condition

Autism varies in its severity. The most severe cases are marked by repetitive, unusual, self-injurious or aggressive behaviour.

The behaviour may persist over time and prove difficult to change, posing a challenge to those who live with, treat and teach these individuals.

In its mildest form, autism resembles a personality disorder associated with a perceived learning disability.

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See also:

25 Apr 01 | Health
Possible autism test for newborns
04 Apr 01 | A-B
Autism
05 Mar 01 | Health
Causes of autism probed
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